Shawnee halts plans to screen gas company property on 75th Street as part of beautification effort

Shawnee is no longer planning to build a screening wall around the Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline site at 75th and Nieman. Above, a fense and barrier around the gas company's property currently on site. File photo.

Shawnee has officially halted the process to build a screening wall around the Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline site on 75th Street.

The city had previously contemplated building the wall around the gas pipeline company’s property on the southwest corner of West 75th Street and Nieman Road as part of the city’s Re-Imagine 75th Street revitalization project along the key corridor.

After considering a plan to hire Miles Excavating for the entire project, including the wall, the Shawnee City Council late last month paused plans for the wall, cost estimates for which had been about $600,000.

At that time, the gas company reported it would contribute $200,000 to the wall. The city would also be in charge of ongoing wall maintenance.

City staff then renegotiated costs for the wall, which was also slated to become a site for a mural.

Assistant City Manager Caitlin Gard said staff brought the cost down to $400,000 by eliminating plans for the screening wall in lieu of an 8-foot wood privacy fence. However, after the city reduced the scope of the project, the gas company reported it would only contribute $130,000.

After that, the Shawnee City Council voted 7-1 to deny plans for a wall altogether.

Council discussion

Some councilmembers had concerns that the reduced cost was still too great and that the company reduced its financial commitment to the wall.

Others said taking over ownership of a wall on private property sets a poor precedent for the city moving forward.

Still other councilmembers said pedestrian safety efforts, especially for children walking to nearby Shawanoe Elementary, and other aspects of the project should be the main focus instead of the wall.

“I think we have a lot of other priorities ahead of us and facing us that are actually higher priority than taking over the ownership of perpetual care of a wall because a for-profit company doesn’t want to do that,” said Councilmember Tammy Thomas.

Councilmember Jill Chalfie, the sole councilmember who still supported the screening wall and cast the dissenting vote against denial of the project, expressed her disappointment in her fellow councilmembers’ decision.

“This ranked pretty high in people’s minds, beautification of the corridor. It wasn’t just a mill-and-overlay project,” Chalfie said. “Part of this was the trails, it was the beautification, and this wall was part of it.

“I hope people don’t get discouraged and feel that they’re not being heard, even though in this case, I feel that they weren’t being heard, but I still encourage people to get involved, take those opportunities for public input and feedback when we solicit them, even though it maybe was discouraging… in this project.”

City staff noted that removing plans for the wall also eliminates plans for beautification on that corner of 75th and Nieman.

A recording of the meeting is below and on the city’s website. Discussion begins at 59:35.