A Prairie Village church is asking city officials to help fix a drainage problem on the church’s property that has caused part of its parking lot to collapse. It says the problem is at least partially the city’s fault.
Several dozen members of the Prairie Baptist Church at 7416 Roe Ave. filled the City Council chamber Monday night, saying the city bears some responsibility because rainwater and snow melt routinely flows off 75th Street down the church’s driveway and down a hillside.
Over time, the runoff eroded the hillside and undercut the asphalt, causing the collapse in 2013. The church members say they had considered doing work to stabilize the hillside but that the city said such work was prohibited.
The Rev. Kathy Pickett, the church’s senior pastor, said the two sides met to discuss the issue last year and it appeared Prairie Village was open to paying for some changes to the curbs near the church driveway it determined had been built incorrectly. But Pickett said the city withdrew its offer when it claimed church members were threatening litigation, which she denies.
Mark Zacharias, who oversees the church council, said engineering studies it completed this spring estimate efforts to stabilize the hillside and parking lot range between $100,000 and $150,000.
“We believe that there is shared responsibility in what had led to this hillside deterioration and collapse and that there is a shared responsibility in resolving the situation,” Zacharias said.
City Administrator Quinn Bennion replied that the church has had plenty of opportunities to repair the runoff and hillside deterioration over the years but didn’t do it. Bennion said the city never said the church couldn’t stabilize the hillside, but that the work would require getting a storm water permit.
He said studies have estimated that the water coming off 75th Street contributes 20 percent of the total runoff causing the erosion with the remainder coming from the church’s own property.
“Staff believes the private property owner — like anywhere else in the city — is responsible for private driveways approaches,” he said. “If the council wants to change that, they can.”
Councilwoman Serena Schermoly, who represents the church’s area, said there were too many unknowns. She asked the city’s public works department to evaluate the information, including the church’s engineering studies, and give the council recommendations at a future meeting.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to increase the service cap for the Prairie Village Police Department from 25 years to 30 years. Officers wanting to take this option would have to make the decision beginning in their 26th year of service and would see their contribution to the pension plan increase from 4 percent to 8 percent of salary.
Councilman Steve Noll, who is a member of the council’s police pension board, said the change would help the department retain senior officers. Police Chief Tim Schwartzkopf said that the most senior officer now has 23 years of service, but that 60 percent of the department’s supervisory staff will be eligible for retirement by 2020.
Schwartzkopf said the change will cost the city an estimated $12,500 extra a year.
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