Some Overland Park residents unhappy with makeup of special committee that will look at chip seal

Overland Park infrastructure group

A new 19-member special infrastructure advisory group in Overland Park will, among other things, more closely examine the city's controversial chip seal method for road resurfacing. But elected officials in Ward 5 in the south of the city say they worry their neighborhoods are not fairly represented on the group. File image.

A history of problems with chip seal road resurfacing in one Overland Park ward has some residents second-guessing the makeup of the city’s new infrastructure advisory group.

Councilmember Faris Farassati has questioned why his Ward 5 in the south of the city has only one resident on the special committee, when some other wards have two or three members and, in one case, four representatives.

Sam Passer, the newly elected councilmember in the other Ward 5 seat, also says he was disappointed that the ward did not have more representation on the committee.

“I am disappointed that Ward 5 does not have more representation, but I am not concerned as the committee members are all well qualified,” said Sam Passer, who won a close contest over Sheila Rodriguez after the Nov. 2 general election results were certified Tuesday.

Passer will now fill the Ward 5 spot being vacated by outgoing Councilmember John Thompson. Passer said he understands the reasoning for the makeup of the infrastructure committee, but he hopes a way can be found to add another member from the ward.

Rodriguez, Passer’s opponent, said she was surprised and frustrated at the lack of a second person from the ward. She ran on an anti-chip-seal platform and last spring and gathered signatures from the presidents of 24 homeowner associations saying they’d prefer no road work in their neighborhoods this year to another layer of chip-seal.

Rodriguez said she applied but did not get a position on the committee.

However, Councilmember Fred Spears, who with Councilmember Holly Grummert chose the infrastructure committee members, said the lack of a second representative was unintentional.

The members were chosen primarily for their broad range of expertise and diversity, Spears said. He and Grummert started their selection process with the aim of naming at least one resident from every ward.

Contentious issue’s long history

Chip-seal has been a contentious issue in Overland Park for years. With chip-seal, road crews put down a sticky layer of asphalt and then press in a layer of crushed rock.

But residents say the newly-laid rock gets picked up and thrown into car undercarriages and windows, causing damage.

They also have complained that the new surface is scratchy, doesn’t last on cul-de-sacs and can cause injury to anyone who falls on it. Other places only use it on rural roads, they have said.

Overland Park abandoned chip-seal for a time in the mid-2000’s but went back to it because the alternative was unsatisfactory. Other resurfacing methods would be more costly, according to city staff.

After the issue came up again this year, the council decided to appoint an advisory committee to look at a broad range of infrastructure issues including sidewalks, stormwater runoff and environmentally sound street plantings as well as roads.

That 19-member committee was named at a recent meeting of the city council’s public works committee and is set to begin work Thursday, Nov. 18.

Focus on Ward 5

Rodriguez said Ward 5 has suffered more problems with chip-seal than most other neighborhoods in the city.

For the past seven years, the area has seen failures from the surface applied too late in the season to cure or at the wrong temperature. In some cases children were injured from falling on the road, she said.

Although some city officials have said the modern version is better than chip-seal of old, Rodriguez said, “It’s still chip-seal. Even the streets we visited a year after the latest and greatest chip-seal had arrived we were still scooping up loose rock with our hands.”

Farassati questioned the ward representation when the new members were announced.

Noting the vocal opposition to chip-seal from residents, he said, “Now it seems that they are being punished by not having an equal number of representatives compared to other wards. This is neither democratic, logical, nor fair, and needs to be corrected immediately.”

Passer said Rodriguez would make a good addition to the committee.

“I’m open to finding out if a couple more spots could be added in the interest of balance,” he said.

Spears said there were several reasons for the shortage of Ward 5 members.

The first consideration was expertise and diversity of viewpoints of the applicants, he said, followed by ward residency. Around nine people from the ward applied. At one point, he said he thought Ward 5 would have two representatives on the committee, but it turned out one person lived just across the boundary in another ward.

He also said there was a concern about having too many sitting councilmembers if Rodriguez had won the Ward 5 election. Her advocacy against chip-seal did not play into their decision, he said.

Ward 3 also has only one representative, he added. But with 19 members, Spears said he is reluctant to add more because of the logistics of holding the meetings.

Infrastructure Advisory Group members:

    • Fred Spears, Ward 4 city councilmember (chair)
    • Holly Grummert, Ward 1 city councilmember
    • Alysen Abel, civil engineer from Ward 4
    • Peggy Amor, business/marketing representative
    • Erin Belenky, product manager from Ward 3
    • Ashley Bieck, environmental advisory committee member from Ward 4
    • Brian Biggs, cartography development team from Ward 2
    • Nicole Burczyk, investment banker from Ward 2
    • Ryan DaMetz, civil engineer from Ward 2
    • Roger Goodrich, grounds care and agricultural business owner from Ward 6
    • Syed Hammad Hussain, pharmacy technician from Ward 6
    • Ana-Elena Jensen, coach consultant from Ward 6
    • Kent Lage, city/county public works representative
    • Jy Juan Maze, president/CEO freight solutions business
    • Ed O’Connor, business rep from Ward 5
    • Jason Piper, planning design and construction
    • Scott Schulte, environmental planner and lecturer from Ward 1
    • David Tafreshi, nurse anesthesia practice from Ward 6
  • Robert Whitman, planner and landscape architect from Ward 2