PAVE forum: Candidates offer views on how to handle local road repair
Last week PAVE (Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education) hosted a candidate forum for 10 hopefuls running for offices relating to the Shawnee City Commission.
Among several community-generated questions, residents wanted to know what stance the four mayoral and six ward candidates hold regarding Shawnee's roadways.
QUESTION: Some folks think the top street priority is the four-lane on 45th Street between Kickapoo and Harrison, others believe the top priority is widening Kickapoo from Kickapoo Spur to Farrall is the most urgent, in reality, the most pressing need is the repair of existing Shawnee streets. A person is hard-pressed to find a street in Shawnee that doesn't need repair. What's your plan for street repair in Shawnee?
ANSWER by Mayoral candidate current Ward 1 City Commissioner Ed Bolt:
All three have to be done and for different reasons. Kickapoo is one the state is paying for, for the most part, and that ship's already sailed. It's well on its way to being done. The 45th Street project was voted on as part of the sales tax and we're committed to doing that. And you have to take care of the streets you have. There's a study that we have had done that analyzes the streets and tells us the conditions; once we have that information we can start looking at where we get the biggest bang for our buck and use our money wisely. Obviously we're always going to have to fill potholes and that kind of thing — that's just life. They've all got to be done.
ANSWER by Mayoral candidate downtown business owner Theresa Cody:
A study is being put together that we need to look at. The citizens should have some input; if they big issues I think they should be able to call in and resolve some of them in the meantime while they're trying to get some of the projects done. There are a lot of bad streets in this town and I would love to see them all done right away.
ANSWER by Mayoral candidate current Ward 3 City Commissioner Ron Gillham Sr.:
Some things are already put to bed — we pretty much have complete. The situation regarding our surface streets is poor. A lot of places, even some of the east-west main arterials like Independence don't have a good finish to them. I think we need to focus on the streets and make it a priority. I think it has to be looked at first, before we look at other things. I've been pretty disappointed in what I've seen.
ANSWER by Mayoral candidate local business owner Dean Hudlow:
I've traveled quite a bit in Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, and every town I went to I checked to see what streets were like because Shawnee was so bad. I believe if there had been a prize for the worst streets in any town around, Shawnee is bound to have won it. Now, since that time, they are so much better compared to what we were living in 20 to 25 years ago. I can't keep from saying the good things about it.
ANSWER by Ward 2 candidate GCTC instructor Elliot Shuler:
I think as a commissioner, I would need to get with the city manager and the other commissioners and begin to look at the budget. We need to look at what money is available. I feel that as a group we would have to get together and say where do we get the best bang for our buck. Where is our money best spent? If the roads aren't passable, I think we need to fix that first. If we have roads where it is troublesome for cars to get down, those are more pressing issues than possibly widening a road in another location. I would address that as the roads that are in most desperation be fixed first and then, as other money is available, start on those projects.
ANSWER by Ward 2 candidate former legislator Bob Weaver:
Kickapoo Street Project is on the end of being completed — the funds have been set aside for years, so that's a project that's moving forward and will be completed. The 45th Street Project was voted on and was an overwhelming majority and it a priority in the city. Those are two projects that are critical. The other needs — there's slim pickings on money. We just need to try to put as much money into road funds out of our budget to be able to take care of road maintenance. I believe the engineering department determines a priority of roads and has a list of those in need — it's a very large list; it's just going to take money. We have to find a way to have the money to make those improvements.
ANSWER by Ward 3 candidate Incumbent James Harrod:
We have hired a company to go around and survey every street and every block in Shawnee. That report should be forthcoming at any time. In the past we've been doing panel replacement, resurfacing and spent Capital Outlay money on repairs. We haven't done any lately because we're waiting for that report to see what streets are in most need. That should be coming any time now.
ANSWER by Ward 3 candidate Community Renewal's Travis Flood:
The Kickapoo extension is really out of our control; it is being done by the state, so we're just waiting for that to happen. We voted for the 45th Street and (it's) already taking place. I think we should get intentional about fixing things we voted to fix and take care of the things we want to take care of — that the citizens are asking to take care of. And then be intentional about — much like the infrastructure — other areas that need the most attention Work on those, not just in our high-priority, high traffic areas, but some of our smaller areas where streets are pretty rough.
ANSWER by Ward 4 candidate Incumbent Darren Rutherford:
Kickapoo South is already underway; it's funded in the budget. The 45th Street Project was voted on and is included in the half-cent sales tax two years ago, so the money for that is separate. We will have some funds available unless there's something more unexpected happening that comes up, so repairing the streets is going to be happening. We've got to wait for the (street survey) report to know which streets to start on.
ANSWER by Ward 4 candidate local business owner LaDonna Bryce:
That is going to take the Planning Commission working together with the (City) Commission. The Kickapoo Street is already in the works and 45th Street is going to have to be addressed because of the new school that's going out there. We were going to have some traffic tie-ups if that was not addressed. It's going to take everybody working together as the funds are there.
Also watch for stories about questions and responses from county, state candidates in The Shawnee News-Star or online at news-star.com.