Council urges projects along
Getting several projects up and moving was a goal of the city last week when a special Shawnee City Council meeting was held last week.
Since the Council left town for the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C., this week, forcing it to cancel its Monday meeting, the mayor and all Council members gathered for the special meeting March 6 before the usual meeting of the Finance & Administration Committee, which consists of four of the Council members. At the special meeting, the Council approved three projects.
The first item up for discussion was the formation of a benefit district for the completion of Silverheel Street from the 6900 to the 7100 block, a project estimated at $2.4 million. The quarter mile-long stretch of road will cut through property developers are targeting for a bio-science lab and office development.
Doug Wesselschmidt, city engineer, said the project was designated for construction this year on the city's Capital Improvement Plan. With both property owners in the district agreeing to the benefit district, they would pay for 100 percent of the project, but the city would administer it.
The Council also approved a contract to provide for the design, bidding and construction for storm drainage channel improvements for Turkey Creek tributary at Johnson Drive, along the east border of Shawnee Town. Funded in part by the county's Stormwater Management Advisory Council, the city's portion of the project is $427,000, which would be paid for with funds from the city's Parks & Pipes sales tax.
The project will add another box culvert to increase water flow under Johnson Drive, which means the city will have to tear up the street. However, Wesselschmidt said the city would keep the road open, closing two lanes at a time.
He added the channel would remain a vegetated channel, but its capacity would be increased to decrease flooding in the area of the First Baptist Church of Shawnee and St. Joseph Catholic School.
Finally, the Council approved funding for the relocation of pipelines along 51st Street, which is currently under construction. While the meeting allowed these projects to move forward, the Council spent much of the meeting discussing the propriety of calling a special meeting.
Council member Kevin Straub asked why it was necessary to call the meeting, particularly in regard to the Silverheel item, rather than just waiting three weeks until the Council's April 9 meeting. He expressed concern that the city was showing favoritism to the developers of the land along Silverheel, calling a special meeting when other developers might have been told to wait.
"To me it just looks strange to have a special meeting for a benefit district," Straub said. "I don't want a perception of the City Council doing things that are not the norm."
Wesselschmidt said since it was getting close to construction season, the city wanted to get the project under way to complete it this year. Without the formation of the benefit district, he said, an engineer couldn't be hired to design the street, and construction would then be delayed. Mayor Jeff Meyers added that the city had often tried to accommodate developers with special situations to get a major project started.
Marvin Rainey, city attorney, said the city is required to make developers wait until a certain meeting in some situations because things like a rezoning must be published at least two weeks before the Council discusses them and given a protest period. However, in this situation, both property owners agreed to a benefit district, so there was no legal constraint or statute keeping the city from moving forward.
All items at the meeting were approved unanimously, though Council member Dan Pflumm abstained from the vote on the Silverheel benefit district.