After residents complain, Shawnee working on better communications on Nieman roadwork

Leah Wankum - July 12, 2019 8:00 am
Nieman Road will be under construction for nearly the rest of 2019.

After hearing concerns from residents on the Nieman Road construction work, Shawnee city staff are working on plans to provide better communications on status updates for the project.

A former Shawnee councilman implored city leaders on Monday to provide better updates on the Nieman road construction project.

Former Shawnee councilman Neal Sawyer

“My opinion, it’s been kind of a fiasco the way it’s been handled, at least the updates that have been given to the public,” said Neal Sawyer. “What I’m concerned about is there doesn’t seem to be — maybe this is a misconception on my part — but there just doesn’t seem to be any input from the city or the governing body on the progress on Nieman Now.”

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The website says the Nieman Now! construction is “expected to be complete” by October 2019, which Sawyer found to be vague.

“I come from the private sector; I was never given that opportunity and facilities, I wasn’t given ‘it should be,’” he said. “I was given the date and ‘it will be and it darn well ought to happen.’”

Sawyer suggested the city provide more status updates online for all city projects, not just Nieman roadwork.

“As we all know out there on social media, the city looks like a bunch of bungling idiots because nothing happens,” he said. “I don’t quite believe that, and maybe that’s because I sat up there just like all of you at one time and things are beyond your control, but at least let the public know.”

An accident occurred on Monday in the middle of construction work on Nieman Road in front of Donovan’s Service. Photo credit Irwin Electric

Earlier that day, a vehicle accidentally drove into a hole from the construction work. The Shawnee Police Department said the vehicle sustained minimal damage, so they didn’t file an official report.

Mayor Michelle Distler said city staff is now working on ways to better communicate updates on the project. She offered Sawyer the opportunity to look at the city staff’s new techniques on communicating the project in the future to see if he thinks they would be effective.

Communications Manager Julie Breithaupt said city staff made plans to meet on Tuesday, the day after the council meeting, to “come up with an updated plan on tackling Nieman Now communications.” The tentative plans would have city staff provide a weekly report to the city council.

Breithaupt noted that city staff also provides frequent updates at cityofshawnee.org/NiemanNow, along with updates via social media, the city’s monthly e-newsletter and CityLine, the quarterly newsletter that is mailed to every home in Shawnee.

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