Parkville pauses on English Landing bathroom project, reevaluating Highway 9 priorities

After years of work, two long-term Parkville projects were stalled at the city’s board of aldermen meeting held Tuesday, March 1. Aldermen rejected all bids for the city’s English Landing Park restroom replacement project and have ordered additional work done on prioritizing projects along the Highway 9 corridor. 

Parkville director of public works Alysen Abel reported that going into the bid process, she and her staff felt confident in the architect’s estimate of approximately $200,000 for a bathroom facility that included a heated family restroom. Then the bids came in with the lowest bid from Gunter Construction coming in at $306,560, inclusive of bid alternates. Abel said the architect explained the cost discrepancy was due to the recovery of the construction market. 

Cuts would be necessery to put the budget back in line, Abel said, while still maintaining the primary goals of creating a usable and attractive year-round restroom facility. 

A suggestion was made to form a committee made up of aldermen, Community, Land and Recreation Board (CLARB) members and staff to work with Gunter to value engineer the project. However, the city finance subcommittee recommended rejection of all bids and to go back to the drawing board. Abel warned that move would put the project further behind, and could potentially lead to the loss of the $40,000 county outreach grant. 

“If we don’t complete this, it could be a black eye for future grant cycles,” Abel said. 

Parkville alderman Marc Sportsman said he’d never seen an analysis of what costs would be involved in rehabbing the old restroom and wasn’t sure the city wanted or needed a $300,000 restroom in a park.

“I quite frankly don’t want to hear again about losing a grant or getting a black eye when I’ve been preaching that just because we get a grant doesn’t mean it’s free money,” Parkville alderman David Jones said. “Grants just aren’t the cure-all that people think they are.”

Parkville mayor Nan Johnston said she believed it was a more responsible use of taxpayer money to reject the bids and look at other options. The board voted to reject the bids and instructed staff to get back to work on cost-effective project design, including the cost involved in renovating the existing bathrooms.

The board also ordered staff to get back to work on the Highway 9 reconstruction project and which sections to submit to the Mid-America Regional Council for potential grant funding. 

Parkville community development director Stephen Lachky presented several scenarios, and his recommendation to apply for a scaled-back reconstruction of the section between Highway 45 and NW 62nd Street. The project was listed as high priority in the MARC-funded corridor study and could be a good jumping-off point for the corridor project. 

The scope includes stormwater infrastructure improvements and a multi-use trail, but excludes a sidewalk along the west side of Hwy. 9 and street lighting. Such elements could be added later, Lachky said. 

“It seems ‘later on’ never seems to happen because other things take place,” said Johnston, suggesting the city consider the option that includes streetlights.

Parkville city administrator Lauren Palmer said the city could investigate partnerships with Kansas City Power and Light, as it has on other recent streetlight projects.

“We owe it to our citizens to do it right the first time,” Rittman said. “The streetlights and the sidewalks are all a part of that.”

Aldermen discussed several alternatives, including adjusting the project to include a potential stoplight at Clark Avenue. The city is still in talks with the Missouri Department of Transportation on the need for a light at that intersection. 

“From a staff perspective, we want to do as much of the corridor as we can and ask for the biggest grant we can possibly get, but based on previous conversations, we’ve tried to pieces together scenarios with a manageable local match with identifiable revenue streams,” Palmer said. “When we add to that, we’re adding to that local match.”

Aldermen resolved to revisit the matter at the March 15 meeting, allowing staff to create an updated cost estimate with additional alternate options. Lachky said this would be the board’s last opportunity to approve a grant application before the MARC deadline. 

The grants will be awarded in late summer.