Overland Park Wards 1 and 2 city council candidates on the issues: Chip seal

Overland Park chip seal

Overland Park Wards 1 and 2 city council candidates answer the fourth question of the 2021 questionnaire about chip seal, a technique used for road repairs. File photo.

In early June, the Shawnee Mission Post asked readers for input on questions for candidates vying for seats in the upcoming election season. Based on that input, the Post developed a questionnaire for candidates running for Overland Park city council seats.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of these five questions. Read the candidates’ responses to previously published questions about affordable housing, police transparency and climate change. Today we’re publishing the candidates responses to item four:

There have been a number of complaints about the city’s use of the chip seal technique for road repairs in recent months, but less discussion about alternatives and how much they would cost. Do you support the city’s current chip seal program? If not, what should the city be doing instead to repair and maintain its roads? How much would an alternative cost and how would the city pay for it? If you do support chip seal, how do you respond to residents who say it is both dangerous to pedestrians/cyclists and damaging to vehicles?

Overland Park City Council Ward 1

Michael Czerniewski

As mentioned in the forum on Wednesday, I do not support the use of chip seal for Overland Park roads. It’s too much of a short-term solution for a long-term problem and causes more problems, such as children getting injured (let’s be honest, children will play in the street despite parents’ telling them not to) and damage to vehicles. I am open to any cost-effective and long-lasting alternatives.

 

 

Logan Heley (incumbent)

Some candidates talk about wanting to get rid of chip seal, I’m a councilmember who actually has a real plan to make it happen without skyrocketing folks’ property taxes.

Simply switching from Chip Seal to a different street preservation method, as my opponents have proposed, would require about a 40% increase in our property tax rate. Instead, I’ve advocated to increase funding to our concrete neighborhood street reconstruction program so we can transition off of the Chip Seal street preservation method, meaning we’ll get away from the neverending cycle of trucks, disruption and street maintenance in favor of better, smoother, longer lasting streets. As we do this we also need to be sure we support safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

As Vice Chair of our City’s Public Works Committee, I believe in finding sustainable solutions for Overland Park’s infrastructure that will make our neighborhoods healthier, safer, and more affordable. In my first four years and next four, if the voters allow, I will work to make our city more walkable, bikeable, and better connected.

Carol Merritt

My research is positive for asphalt roads, negative for chip seal. The reason…when snow falls and the snow graders roll, they tend to scrape the rough surfaces and wear the surfaces more than asphalt. Our children walk and ride on rough streets and fall and the rough surfaces can severely hurt them. Tires of cars are scraped and disintegrate rapidly. So, with asphalt, it is safer and cheaper and lasts longer. My vote is for asphalt.

 

 

Ryan Spencer

I 100% do not support the chip seal program. It fails sooner than any other method of resurfacing and does damage to vehicles, driveways, houses, pets; and most importantly, people. I believe we should be using ultra thin resurfacing for our roads or pouring new concrete where applicable. It would cost more up front for these methods, but it would be lasting much, much longer than the chip seal does, particularly with the plowing and de-icing that Overland Park must do every winter. I believe, in the long run, the cost per year of usage (with the bulk pricing that we could get as a large customer) would come out fairly comparable and you would be making the residents happy as well. We always here talk of the importance of maintaining infrastructure for business development/incentivization but when it comes to the most visible part of that infrastructure, we’re the only city in the county using something as flimsy as chip seal for our residential streets, it reflects poorly on us and needs to be changed.

Overland Park City Council Ward 2

Melissa Cheatham

No one loves chip seal. It is a lower quality product but one the city has chosen because alternatives are much more expensive and the focus has been on keeping our property taxes low. We make decisions like these in our families every day, making trade-offs and setting priorities according to what we can afford.

I understand that we would pay about $30 million per year for alternatives, compared to about $4 million for chip seal. If we pay for that entirely through property taxes, the mill levy would need to be raised by 40%—about $70 per $100,000 in appraised value. At the same time, our community is asking for other investments that cost money, too, including better mental health services, gathering places, street trees, bike lanes, better sidewalks, updated parks, more climate resilience, and more community outreach.

Community engagement is one of my top priorities, so I will be eager to hear from residents about their willingness to invest more in our community and whether upgraded pavement is their top priority. I would personally rank chip seal low on my priority list, but as an elected official, it would be my job to gauge and consider the priorities of the entire community.

Tony Medina

I am not supportive of chip seal. My street had chip seal installed in 2014 and will have a second layer installed this summer, I am disappointed in this process. The rock chips can be found for years after their application, even 7 years after being installed, I can walk down the street and the chips become lodged in my shoes. These chips land in the street gutter and eventually find their way into the stormwater drainage system; I do not see how this can be environmentally friendly. I do not have costs for alternative solutions but will certainly work collaboratively to explore solutions. My own frustration with chip seal is that the City Council continues to approve funding for the process without exploring alternatives. The number one complaint from residents should not be allowed to continue without action.

 

Roger Tarbutton

The use of chip-seal to maintain residential streets is disliked by residents and other local municipalities who have dropped its use or are in the process of transitioning away from it. It is time Overland Park seriously addressed the issue rather than continuing to kick the can down the road. I have heard several different estimates of how much chip-seal alternatives will cost. Almost every year the city council makes many difficult budget decisions when prioritizing among various competing programs and interests. A major city of over 200,000 residents with an annual budget in excess of $300 million dollars should be able to absorb the cost of transitioning away from chip-seal through cost savings rather than by raising the mill levy. Providing excellent streets and infrastructure that enhance the safety of our citizens should be paramount in the minds of our elected officials.

Tomorrow, we will publish the candidates’ responses to question #5:

The city’s use of tax incentives to attract businesses and spur new development have become the subject of extensive debate in recent years. What’s your general view on the use of tax incentives? Should they ever be used for greenfield projects? Are there any tax incentive tools you believe should never be used? Why or why not?