Some big street improvement projects could be coming to the Northland with the 2016/2017 Kansas City budget.
Neighborhood improvements and infrastructure were top of the concerns for about 50 people gathered Saturday morning at the Kansas City Police Department Regional Police Academy Building, 6885 N.E. Pleasant Valley Road.
The Feb. 20 feedback meeting was the first of four planned to give Kansas City residents the chance to take their concerns and priorities directly to city council members.
The $1.5 billion budget represents a 3.5 percent overall increase from last year. About two-thirds of the budget is dedicated to water, aviation and restricted sales taxes. This year’s proposed budget includes a release of a pay freeze for city employees. Highlights also include a $10 million bond program to help demolish about 870 buildings on the city’s dangerous structures list.
About half of the $160 million of capital improvements in the planned budget are in the Northland.
City Budget Officer Scott Huizenga points out a boost to the Northland will be several “shovel ready” street projects, included the $160 million capital improvements in the budget. Two of the upgrades include a project on Pleasant Valley Road and one on Missouri 210.
“They were planned for about four years from now, and we’re issuing a bond so we can start those now, because they are ready to go,” Huizenga said.
Keith Nelson, a representative from the North Bennington Neighborhood Association, was one of several people who spoke to council members. He spoke about the importance of infrastructure improvements, reminding members of a redevelopment plan the city developed for his area in 2009.
Many who spoke at the meeting expressed concerns about the state of the city’s east side, south of the river. Nelson said he wanted to ensure city leaders realize the Northland also faces an economic divide. Nelson says some areas are still waiting for sidewalks and street improvement 65 years after the area was annexed by Kansas City.
“When you live two blocks from an elementary school, yet you have to rely on the bus to pick up your children because it’s too dangerous for them to walk in the streets, there’s something wrong in our system,” Nelson said.
District One Councilwoman Heather Hall shared Nelson’s concerns.
“District One is an area where families come to raise their children and residents want good quality of life,” Hall said.
“They aren’t looking for sexy. They are looking for focused, real infrastructure where their kids can walk to school on nice sidewalks and have curbs and gutters and the things that will help raise the value of their homes and keep their neighborhoods growing and strong and nice.”
Hall points to at least one new sidewalk improvement to help with the safe route to school situation her district faces. The budget calls for sidewalks near Maplewood Elementary and Maple Park Middle School. Hall also points to a planned new fire station off Missouri 291 that is not in this budget, but is planned to help meet the public safety needs of the far northern reaches of the city.
In District 2, a planned project on Englewood road would also help with a safe route to school for students at West Englewood Elementary.
Another item of discussion was concern about the Kansas City earnings tax, which is set to go before voters for renewal on April 5.
The public is invited to participate in any of the upcoming budget hearing events:
▪ 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 27, Kansas City Missouri Police East Patrol, Leon M. Jordan Campus, 2640 Prospect
▪ March 1: LIVE Budget twitter chat, 3 p.m. to 4p.m. @kcmo or by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
▪ 8:30 a.m. March 2, Finance and Governance Committee Meeting, City Hall, 414 E 12th Street
▪ 10 a.m. to noon March 5, Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Road
The budget must be finalized and adopted by city council before the fourth regular meeting in March.
Planned Northland projects in 2016/2017 budget
1. Front Street I-435 to I-35
2. MO Route 210 Improvements
3. Pleasant Valley Road-Searcy Creek
4. Northwood and 56th St.
5. Englewood Street upgrade
6. Tiffany Springs Parkway lighting
7. NW Prairie View – 64th Street to Klamm
8. NW 72nd I-29 to Overland