Overland Park task force would review chip seal, stormwater and other infrastructure needs

Overland Park chip seal

Chip seal, a method of surfacing roads by pressing crushed rocks into a sticky layer of asphalt, has stirred debate in Overland Park for years. Now, three councilmembers are proposing the formation of an advisory board that could address that and other infrastructure needs in the city. File photo.

Overland Park needs an advisory board to consider the best ways to maintain and pay for streets, sidewalks and stormwater improvements, three city councilmembers say.

Council president Curt Skoog and councilmembers Jim Kite and Fred Spears are set to propose that an advisory board of residents, experts and other stakeholders be formed to study the infrastructure issues facing the city for the next decade.

Skoog is also a candidate for mayor.

The ongoing controversy over chip seal – a road surfacing method that presses crushed rock into a sticky layer of asphalt – would likely be on the list of things to consider, as would stormwater and landscaping practices to minimize environmental harm, Skoog said.

Chip seal has been an issue because of its unpopularity with some residents who say it is dangerous for playing children or bicyclists who may fall on the surface, in addition to posing a hazard to cars that can be hit by small chunks of debris kicked up by another vehicle’s tires.

Skoog said the city has been struggling with chip seal for years. In order to replace it, though, he and others have said the city will need to find a way to pay for the higher cost of using other surfacing methods.

Other issues possibly addressed

Stormwater improvements would also be important in helping Overland Park deal with big rain events that are expected as the climate changes, Skoog said.

An infrastructure advisory board could be useful in helping the city meet the regional Climate Action Plan, a blueprint for addressing climate-related threats, he said.

Councilmember Faris Farassati, so far Skoog’s only opponent in this year’s mayoral race, said in an email he supports fact-finding and open discussion but called the proposal to form the advisory panel a “bureaucratic attempt to dilute the most acute demand of the people of Overland Park, a ban on a health hazard named chip seal.”

He also said the climate action idea is too important to combine with infrastructure and deserves its own platform, “if genuine intention to act exists.”

What could happen next

The advisory panel, which could consist of about a dozen people, could look into funding for that and other infrastructure maintenance. Skoog noted that the city’s 8-cent sales tax for infrastructure will be up for renewal in two years.

The board would take a comprehensive view of new technologies, finances and sustainability. The three councilmembers who back the idea also proposed hiring a nationally respected consultant and to take public input, with a goal of recommending solutions about a year after the consultant is selected.

“We’re taking a scientific and public process to evaluate what the right solution is for Overland Park. The alternative is to not maintain our streets and I don’t think that’s the right alternative,” Skoog said.

The idea will be formally proposed at the council’s public works committee meeting on Wednesday, March 24.