More than a year after heavy rains flooded homes and swamped parked cars along a section of Mission Road in Prairie Village, the city is taking steps to alleviate the problem, including a plan to raise part of the road almost 5 feet to better control storm water runoff.
The City Council on Monday reviewed a preliminary engineering study of the $2.3 million project and voted unanimously to ask Johnson County to help pay for it through the county’s annual storm water grant program. If approved, the county would pay 75 percent of the cost but construction would not begin until mid-2020.
Engineers propose elevating a section of Mission Road between West 68th Street and Tomahawk Road to eliminate a low spot that makes the road vulnerable when Brush Creek, which runs parallel to the road, jumps its banks.
Last year, the creek flooded three times during heavy thunderstorms, overtopping the road and sending water into five homes on the other side of the street. Because of the low spot, drivers who are not familiar with the area have driven into the flood-waters by mistake, become stuck and had to be rescued.
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By raising the road, officials said they can keep the roadway safe and open to emergency vehicles during storms and use it as a barrier to protect the nearby homes from flooding.
As part of the proposal, the city would turn a parking lot east of Mission Road into a small park to help hold floodwaters. It also could be planted with vegetation to help improve water quality, said Cliff Speegle, the city’s storm-water project manager.
Speegle said engineers considered two other options, both of which involved raising Mission Road, but determined that they were either too expensive or dangerous. The first required buying the five homes most at-risk of flooding, which he estimated would have increased the total project price tag to $7.5 million. The other, at $2.4 million, would have involved keeping the parking lot, which Speegle said would violate city policy against building parking lots in flood plains.
The city also considered building a flood wall to better protect Village Presbyterian, but that would have required a wall up to 6 feet tall to meet federal regulations, which church officials vetoed.
Keith Bredehoeft, the city’s public works director, said the city is still working with the church leaders to identify other steps it can take for flood protection.
Council member Jori Nelson said she heard broad support from neighbors for the project during a public information meeting the city held in October. For example, raising the road will make some of the residents’ driveways less steep.
“I haven’t heard any opposition from any of the Ward 1 residents,” Nelson said.
In other business, the council ratified the selection of Adam Geffert as the new city clerk. Geffert was appointed by Mayor Laura Wassmer to replace Joyce Hagen Mundy, who is retiring after 25 years in the position.
The council also voted unanimously to approve buying almost $120,000 in playground equipment for Franklin Park at Roe Avenue and Somerset Drive.
Before approving the purchase, the council voted to dismiss a complaint by resident James Olenick, who claimed that the city is violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, by the way it provides playground equipment for disabled children.
Olenick told the council that its plans to build a $575,000 “inclusive” play area at Harmon Park specially designed to accommodate disabled users should be shelved and that money used to include more handicapped-accessible equipment at other city parks so disabled children don’t have to travel out of their neighborhoods to use them.
“Prairie Village, through the application of parks funds, is continuing a tradition of segregation,” Olenick said, referring to the decades-old practice of using neighborhood restrictions to exclude minorities.
Council members said they acknowledged Olenick’s concerns and that they would consider in the future adding more accessible features, such as hard rubber surfaces that are easier for wheelchairs, when planning playground amenities. However, they also noted that the equipment being purchased for Franklin Park is ADA-compliant and that there is no attempt to discriminate against disabled users.
“What you’re really talking about more is a policy discussion about inclusion versus just access,” said Council member Tucker Polling. “I appreciate that, but I just don’t see the ADA issue here.”
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