Weston’s downtown city park will remain closed indefinitely due to contamination concerns from recent flooding.
At the Monday, April 8 board of aldermen meeting — held at the West Platte Fire Station due to flooding that forced city government out of city hall in March — the board heard an update on the situation at the park, after swearing in the new mayor and alderman. Mayor Steven George and alderman Michael Goentzel, along with returning alderman Joyce Priddy, were sworn in at the start of the meeting.
Weston Park Board president Rick Stout said that while the city’s public works crews had done an excellent job picking up debris and cleaning hard surfaces at the park, there were still concerns about microbial and fecal contamination in the soil and playground mulch. Although the mulch can be replaced, the Platte County Board of Health recommended the city keep the park closed for up to 90 days — barring another flood event, which would reset the time table.
“Nature will alleviate this problem, but it will take time,” Stout said. The sun and natural processes will decontaminate the soil better than human efforts, according to the health department. In the meanwhile, the city needs to keep people from venturing into the park. Stout said there are also concerns about chemical contamination.
The city’s Easter egg hunt, to be held April 13, has already been relocated to Benner Park due to the contamination concerns.
In the meanwhile, new, stronger signage will be placed at park entrances to bar entry.
“We need to make it clear that there is a real danger,” said alderman James Lowe, stating the signage should be more specific about why the park is closed. “I’ve seen people walking their dogs there and even that isn’t safe. Your dog could get sick. Your dog could pick something up and make you sick, too.”
A bid for mulch replacement was received, but for now the city will wait until the danger of more flooding passes before potentially replacing the mulch. Aldermen agreed to check in on the situation at each monthly meeting before making the decision to reopen the park.
City officials also spoke about other flood cleanup activities, and residents’ concerns about the Weston water supply after the Kansas City Water Department issued advisories about possible contamination last month. Weston’s water is sourced from sealed wells instead of surface water, with the wells located above the flood plain. While flood waters may get close, they cannot enter the closed system and any damage to the fencing or area around the wells should be minimal.
After about two weeks out of city hall, municipal leadership is preparing to move back into their building at the bottom of Main Street. Cleanup of flood debris and disinfection is expected to be complete by the end of the week and staff plan to move from the police station back to city hall on Monday, April 15.
Later that week, director of public works Mike Large said he would meet with Missouri State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA) officials to discuss the city’s damage assessment and recovery process.
Also at the meeting, the board approved a substantial increase to sewer user charges, the proceeds of which will fund payments for the bonds upgrading the city’s sewage treatment system. Previously, the minimum monthly charge was $17 and $4.50 per 1,000 gallons of water discharged into the system. The new sewer rates are a $29.81 minimum and $5.47 per 1,000 gallons.