Managing traffic and improving neighborhood safety left the Prairie Village City Council divided on Monday.
In a 6-5 vote, the council reopened the city’s traffic calming program, allowing residents to request measures to mitigate traffic in their neighborhoods.
Since the program was adopted in 2006, speed tables, longer, flatter versions of speed bumps, were installed on nine streets that met the requirements. Among other criteria, residents must get at least 30 percent of homeowner support in the affected area to be considered for a street calming measure.
Budget cuts forced the program to be suspended in 2010. Public Works director Keith Bredehoeft said the average cost to study, design and install a traffic calming project is $15,000 to $20,000.
The measures used to solve problems like speeding and excessive traffic can range from battery-operated speed radar signs to raised islands. So far, speed tables were found to work very well for Prairie Village residents. At 22 feet long and 3.5 inches high, speed tables are flat topped and reduce vehicle speeds without impeding traffic or snow plows.
“We’ve reached a balance between what can be left in place,” Bredehoeft said. “Other communities have tried higher and shorter (speed humps) and the feedback was so negative they ended up removing them.”
Council member Eric Mikkelson of Ward 3 is a supporter.
“This is a resident-driven program and it’s a great program, in my opinion. It’s an example of what makes Prairie Village different and great,” Mikkelson said. “Residents can get together and work with the city to improve their neighborhoods.”
Others on the council are not fans of the program.
“I feel like it’s great to have resident-driven projects, but I don’t think it’s great to have expensive projects driven by this project,” said Ward 3 Councilman Andrew Wang.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Ruth Hopkins also opposed the program adding that the guidelines for qualifying for speed calming measures were too arbitrary.
“Way too many streets want this. We’ve had too many (street tables) already,” Hopkins said. “Unless you’re a major street, you’re going to qualify.”
The council voted 6-5 to reopen the program. Wang, Hopkins, Terrence Gallagher, Steve Noll and Ted Odell voted against the program.
Also this week, the council voted unanimously to confirm the appointment of Police Chief Wes Jordan to the position of assistant city administrator. At 50, Jordan will retire from the police department with all his benefits.
He will serve in a dual role as police chief and assistant city administrator beginning Monday through March 23.
Capt. Tim Schwartzkopf will serve as interim police chief while a process is determined to select a permanent replacement.
Jordan is replacing Kate Gunja, who is leaving the position after one year to become assistant city manager in Overland Park.
“The mayor and I started discussions after we learned about Kate’s departure. How do we move forward?” said City Administrator Quinn Bennion. “About that time we started discussions with Chief Jordan about the possibility of him staying on as an administrator. There are a lot of positives that he can continue with this city.”
Jordan has been with the Prairie Village Police Department for 27 years, with 7 1/2 as police chief.
The assistant city administrator is responsible for the city’s planning, zoning and code enforcement activities.
In other business:
▪ The council delayed acting on the request by Tutera Partnership, MVS, LLC, for an extension to the construction period for the $50 million Mission Chateau senior living development. The Planning Commission proposed a 14-month extension to the 2-year construction period. The extension item will be on the agenda April 6.
▪ Informational open houses for the Meadowbrook Country Club redevelopment are scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Meadowbrook Country Club. The clubhouse will be set up as a series of stations for the public to glean information about the concept plan and financing for the proposed 88-acre park.