Mission council opting toward debt-financing wholesale repairs to Rock Creek Channel erosion issues

Erosion of the Rock Creek Channel is causing this parking lot on Martway Street to fail.

Mission city leaders generally agree on plans to make wholesale repairs to the eroded sections of a creek channel that cuts through town — rather than piecemealing the project over an extended period of time. And they’d rather take on debt and pay it over time rather than raising the mill levy to cover repair costs more quickly.

Nothing official has been decided yet, but that was the general consensus from Mission city leaders at their community development committee meeting last night. Councilmembers discussed design and financing options for repairs of the Rock Creek Channel.

This is what the parking lot looked like before homeowners made temporary repairs to the subsidence that occurred in August 2017.

The section of the channel that starts east of Nall Avenue and extends to Roeland Drive has major erosion issues. Adjacent to the section of the channel in need of attention is the parking lot of the Roeland Court Townhomes, where a subsidence caused by heavy rains occurred in summer 2017.

Here are the list of options presented by City Administrator Laura Smith:

  • Option 1A – $1.3 million to make immediate repairs to channel section near parking lot, build retaining walls within 200 feet of parking lot and nearby MD Management property
  • Option 1B — $4.8 million to return to project and focus on repairing the rest of the channel
  • Option 2 — $5.2 million to tackle entire project, including restoring parking lot and nearby MD Management property and make wholesale repairs to the channel

Mission city leaders favor Option 2, especially because any delays in piecemealing the project could adversely affect sections of the channel that are repaired first. Smith said tackling the project over an extended period of time could also increase costs. In 2019 dollars, the city could save up to $940,000 by tackling the project all at once.

The city’s capital improvement program committee last month unanimously recommended Option 2, Smith added.

Councilmembers agreed that they’d rather take on debt than raise the mill levy to cover costs. Smith said the city is already on track to pay off debt for multiple projects next year; the city’s current debt standing is about $19.8 million. All existing debt, except for debt from stormwater projects, is set to retire by 2023, she added.

If the council opts to do pay-as-you-go financing for the project, it may consider raising the stormwater fee to cover costs, but that has not been decided yet.

The Rock Creek Channel improvements, as one of the city’s capital improvement projects, was eligible to receive up to $2.9 million in stormwater funding from Johnson County, but due to competition with other similar projects in the county and a restructuring of the county’s stormwater program, there are no available funds from the county for the project.

The city established a community improvement district for Roeland Court Townhomes, which allows the homeowners to pay for repairs to their parking lot over a 22-year period. Smith said repairs to the Rock Creek Channel should not affect the repair work to the parking lot.

Councilmembers will discuss the project again during their committee meeting in June, after which they may decide next steps.