(Kansas City, MO) “If costs were all that we cared about, we’d still be driving on dirt roads.” “We’re not asking to be better than the surrounding communities. We’re asking to be as good the communities around us.”Drew Quinn, president of the Lionsgate Homes Association Resident John Boren Rarely has street surfacing material engendered such passion.But Wednesday night nearly 100 people packed the Overland Park City Council chambers under the watchful eye of television cameras to plead with the city to end the use of chip-seal, an oily, rocky material used to maintain residential streets.They told tales of tracking tar into their driveways and homes. They voiced fear about the danger their kids faced if they fell on the street as they rode their bikes. The comforts of living on a residential street are coming to an end, they told a City Council committee.”If we wanted Missouri roads, we’d all be living in Missouri paying Missouri taxes,” said Jerry Garland, who lives in a south Overland Park subdivision.The City Council’s Public Works Committee recommended changing the policy, which could cost between $600,000 and $700,000 more a year. The change would begin next year as part of a two-year transition. The new policy will be considered by the City Council on Sept. 19.Residents called the material, which is more durable and less expensive than other treatments, unacceptable and a terrible way to maintain city streets. They questioned how a city that bills itself as first-rate could use second-rate materials for maintenance.”We are a first-class city, we should have streets that represent that,” said Stephanie Garcia, who has been battling the city to change its policy since her street was treated with chip-seal.Other residents said they were willing to pay more taxes if it meant nicer streets for their children to play on.”If costs were all that we cared about, we’d still be driving on dirt roads,” said Drew Quinn, president of the Lionsgate Homes Association.Chip-seal has been used in Overland Park for about 40 years, even as area cities such as Olathe and Lenexa turned to other materials to keep residents satisfied with their roads.”We’re not asking to be better than the surrounding communities,” resident John Boren said. “We’re asking to be as good the communities around us.”Crews apply chip-seal by spreading small stones over a layer of oil sprayed on the street. Workers compact the rock with rollers, but the process relies on traffic to finish the job. The material preserves streets until they come due for paving, about once every 28 years.But facing an increasing number of complaints this year, Overland Park is looking to move to material that is less durable and about 50 percent more expensive.Under the plan recommended by the Public Works Committee, the city would use a process called micro-surfacing that is more like asphalt.Beginning next year, the city would use microsurfacing on a couple of subdivisions where some corrective work is needed, plus at least an additional 31 miles. The first year cost is still uncertain. The new surfacing material would not be applied citywide until 2007.City Manager John Nachbar said he thought the added expense could be absorbed by city’s 2006 budget, which was approved earlier this month. He didn’t know how it would affect the 2007 budget.By BRAD COOPERThe Kansas City Star
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