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It’s back to the drawing board for Brush Creek fence project
Prairie Village’s Public Works staff had all but closed the books on the fence and trail installation project along Brush Creek from Porter Park to 71st Street. Now, they’re going back to the drawing board.
The City Council directed Public Works staff to develop a variety of options for removing the current fence and either relocating it, replacing it with another material, or both. Public Works will present those options as well as associated costs at the council’s next meeting, Feb. 6.
The move came after extensive and sometimes heated discussion about the process that had led to the $20,000 installation of the fence — a process that excluded neighbors from adding their thoughts and that caught most council members off guard.
Ruth Hopkins, who represents the ward where the fence was installed, said the entire incident left her incredulous.
“I don’t think I have ever as a Ward 2 councilperson been more disappointed in the city,” she said. “I was completely unaware and that the fence was going up. I think it is atrocious.”
Hopkins said she had spent days trying to understand who had made the ultimate decision to change the material of the fence from wooden rail, as it had been presented to the council in several previous iterations of the project, to chainlink.
The answer to that question seemed to come when city Project Manager Keith Bredehoeft addressed the council, telling them he had made the decision to switch over to chainlink from wooden rail after consulting with the engineer on the project and deciding chainlink was necessary to address safety concerns. Steep inclines leading down to a five- or six-foot drop off into a concrete creek channel convinced Bredehoeft that a more significant barrier was needed to protect young cyclists from dangerous falls.
“As we went through [the process of plotting out where the trail would go] I got more concerned with safety,” he said. “I can say I feel it is a safe fence as it built now.”
The revelation that Bredehoeft had made the call to switch materials without doing more to alert the council prompted an outcry from Steve Noll, who also represents Ward 2.
“Did you not think it might be appropriate to allow us to offer input on that decision, as opposed to reserving the judgment for yourself?” Noll asked.
“I should have brought it to a higher level,” Bredehoeft responded.
Bredehoeft noted that the decision to switch to chainlink from wooden rail was not a cost issue. A wooden rail fence, he said, would have been cheaper to install than the chainlink one.
Hopkins and council member Michael Kelly told their colleagues that they wanted an investigation into how the project made its way through City Hall, the Parks and Recreation Committee and Public Works so that similar incidents can’t occur in the future.
“The process was so flawed,” said Hopkins. “I think there needs to be some accountability to come out of Parks. That was money that was precious to all of us. And it’s gone now.”
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