Dealing with persistent flooding that’s caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage to homes near Rock Creek in Fairway is among the top priorities the mayor and city council will need to address over the coming four years, candidates running for local office agreed Wednesday.
At a forum hosted by the Shawnee Mission Post and the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, mayoral candidates Melanie Hepperly and Jim Poplinger and three candidates running for seats on the city council discussed Fairway’s current status and future challengers.
The city has seen major progress on infrastructure issues in recent years, having completed a total update of its aging pool facilities two years ago and secured a new location for its city hall earlier this year. (The city plans to move its operations from the Fairway Office Center to the former Churchill building adjacent to the police department in December). But as the city has seen more and more flooding along Rock Creek over the last decade, residents and officials have recognized the need to get to work on addressing stormwater.
Dan Bailey, who is running against J.D. Fair for a Ward 2 seat on the council, said that development of the Mission Gateway project — with thousands of feet of new impervious surface — up the stream will likely compound a dangerous situation.
“There is no way that we will have less water coming into Fairway than what we have now,” he said. “What we have now already causes problems.”
A civil engineer by training, Bailey said he thought his background would be an asset to the city as it deals with this issue. (Fair did not attend Wednesday’s forum).
Kelly-Ann Buszek, an administrator at the University of Kansas Medical Center who is running for a Ward 1 seat on the council, said she believed it was time for the city to see a major upgrade to its electrical infrastructure as well. (Buszek’s opponent Mathew Bowen did not participate in the forum).
In the mayoral race, Hepperly, a CPA with 40 years experience in the business world, touted the city’s progress stabilizing its finances during her time as chair of the finance committee, noting that Fairway had gone from practically no reserves eight years ago to a policy today that keeps at least 10 percent of the annual city budget tucked away each year.
Poplinger, an attorney by training, said he’d been instrumental in overdue updates to the city code and employee manual. He said he was a “student of history” and believed that government “should serve the people, and not the other way around.”
Tanya Keys, who is running unopposed for a second term in her Ward 4 seat, participated in the forum as well.
(We’ll post full video from the forum on the site Friday).