Mission Hills City Council candidates on the issues: flooding solutions

Mission Hills flooding

Candidates running for one seat on the Mission Hills city council discuss solutions for flooding along Brush and Rock Creeks. File image.

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Mission Hills City Council address. Based on your feedback, we developed a three-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

Mission Hills city council recently approved flood studies to be conducted along Brush and Rock Creeks. This is in connection with The Kansas City Country Club’s master plan. What would flooding solutions along these creeks mean for Mission Hills residents? Would you support potential solutions? 

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:

At-Large Seat

Barbara Nelson

Barbara Nelson headshot About Belinder. The Belinder low water crossing is just a section of Brush Creek were it meets Rock Creek on the Mission Hills border with Fairway. Brush Creek runs almost the entire length of Mission Hills, and the City has made the safety of Brush Creek a priority. Increasingly heavier rains, huge amounts of building and development by our neighbors in southern Johnson County and ever larger homes in Mission Hills covering land that used to absorb runoff, has meant our portion of Brush Creek becomes exceedingly dangerous in large storms. Controlling water is expensive. Twice we have instituted Storm Water Runoff assessments of our residents. We have used these and other funds to study the Creek’s flow at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Engineering to help us preserve the natural beauty of the Creek while controlling the impact it has on public safety and private property. (Several residents actually own the part of the Creek that borders their homes).

In the case of Belinder, there is one Mission Hills home directly facing the Low Water Crossing and three further off the Creek that have front yard flooding in major storms. The Crossing requires constant maintenance. Our road surfaces and support pillars wear away with regularity, Before and after a storm, the police must close and reopen the gates taking them away from their primary jobs. And the clean up after even the smallest flooding is staggering. The amount of plastic alone would fill a trash truck.

The results of the Corps of Engineers Study of March 2020 had three possible solutions: Buy out four homes in Fairway and widen the Creek at a cost of $5.91 million, remove the crossing and replace it with a cul de sac for $652,000 or remove the crossing and and raise State Park Road
at a cost of $3.5 million. Before we could act on those recommendations. The Kansas City Country Club asked us to let engineers look into using some of their property to contain flooding. This allows us to look into solutions the Corps could not consider.

The City hired Water Resource Solutions who have suggested, among others, that it may be possible to raise the height of Belinder Road and redirect the streams to lessen the flooding impact. This would be my ideal solution. However, this is still a work in progress with both the Mission Hills and Kansas City Country Clubs now in the process of discussing their options. I favor keeping the Road open. For those living in the middle of Mission Hills, Belinder Road is a direct access to Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway shops, Westwood View School and most importantly the University of Kansas Health system. As always, the final plan and costs will be open to input from the Community.

Bill Bruning (incumbent)

Bill Bruning headshot Mission Hills has been dealing with problems along Brush Creek almost from the City’s inception and we regularly confront the need for repairs and reconstruction work at the Belinder low water crossing into Fairway. The cost of managing erosion at that location may average, over time, as much as $85,000 annually; so the City is starting with a significant amount of money to consider. There have been some discussions of rechanneling limited portions of the creek as it winds through the City to address the broader issues the creek presents to adjoining country clubs, the City, the surrounding houses, and the residents of both Mission Hills and Fairway. There appears to be no good answer to these issues. The Council has met on site to consider such solutions as redesigning the crossing, or of even closing the bridge to through traffic. For many reasons the consensus seems to be to leave the crossing open. Some Johnson County cities faced with this problem have actually condemned houses most impacted by flooding and created parks – the cost of this for Mission Hills would be prohibitive.

Therefore, the “solution” might seem to be to continue as we have, with regular maintenance on the crossing and occasional total rebuilding. However, this option ignores the dangers presented to vehicles crossing in high water – over the years, lives have been lost along this stretch of the creek. And it presupposes a high ongoing cost without addressing the underlying issues. I believe we must do more than this, we probably can’t afford a comprehensive solution, but we also cannot continue to patch around the sides of the problem.

The City has hired a consultant who recently made a preliminary report and summary of issues to the Council. Rough cost estimates are eye opening, but staff is researching possible sources of financial assistance. Once we have pulled together a consensus “best approach,” we will then need to present this to the citizens. The costs and the possible inconvenience will be significant, and we need to have residents on Board.

On Tuesday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:

Some Mission Hills residents have complained about noise pollution from landscaping companies using mowers and leaf blowers. Would you support measures to reduce noise pollution? If so, what approach would you recommend?