Residents lobby Roeland Park council to address sinkhole problem ‘as fast as we can’

Roeland Park saw two new sinkholes open up in the wake of recent storms. Photos courtesy city of Roeland Park.
Roeland Park saw two new sinkholes open up in the wake of recent storms. Photos courtesy city of Roeland Park.

By Holly Cook

Roeland Park councilmembers continued their discussion Monday on how to remedy the failed section of pipe causing sinkholes in the rear yard of two homes on the 56th block of Roeland Drive.

The council approved $18,800 in funding for Larkin Lamp Rynearson to design and inspect the removal and replacement of the section of failed corrugated pipe. The inspection will inform the city’s tentative plan to replace the failed corrugated metal pipe with concrete pipe and new inlets and manholes along the existing pipe alignment.

These improvements, expected to cost around $131,000, would remain if the city moved forward with completing the RC12-018 project. Councilmembers also gave the thumbs up for city staff to use a modified bid approach that would expedite the process of replacing the pipe.

The project has been identified as a maintenance issue and will be funded through the Special Infrastructure Fund.

City administrator Keith Moody said safety concerns associated with the sinkholes raised the level of urgency for getting the problem fixed.

“We’ve got open holes and there is the potential of harm,” he said.

Resident Larry Schulte, who owns one of the homes with the sinkholes, said he would appreciate moving the project forward “as fast as we can.”

The location of the failed pipe is within Roeland Park’s RC12-018 stormwater benefit initiative, and was approved for funding by the Johnson County Storm Water Management Advisory Council, or SMAC, in 2008. Roeland Park would have received 75 percent funding to improve infrastructure and remove homes from the flood plan, but the plan was abandoned after failing to gain support from the neighborhood or council.

Councilmember Michael Poppa asked whether the pipe failure could have been prevented if the city had followed through with the RC12-018 initiative.

Director of public works Jose Leon said they did not believe the pipe failure would have occurred because the infrastructure improvements included replacing the section of failed metal pipe with cement.

Councilmember Ryan Kellerman pointed out that the funding needed to replace the section of failed pipe was a fraction of the costs outlined in RC12-018.

Councilmember Michael Rhoades asked city staff whether the infrastructure improvement could be eligible for SMAC funding.

City staff indicated they had asked if SMAC would consider reimbursing Roeland Park if they moved forward with completing RC12-018 but SMAC was not supportive of the concept. However, staff said they were confident future applications for SMAC assistance within that area could secure funding.

Other options not recommended by staff included spending $75,000 to replace failed sections of pipe with new corrugated metal pipe or spending $313,000 to install concrete pipe and structures with a new alignment shown in the RC12-018 plans. The $75,000 option would need replaced if the city moves forward with RC12-018.