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The city of Paola is moving forward with survey and geotechnical studies to determine if new ballfields can be built at Wallace Park.

PAOLA — Paola City Council members voted 3-1 to hire a company to conduct an engineering study regarding new ballfields proposed to be built at Wallace Park, but the special meeting Jan. 20 was not without controversy.

Once the meeting was called to order, council member LeAnne Shields made a statement saying she believes the special meeting was called illegally.

She referenced Kansas Statute 15-106, which states that “special meetings may be called by the mayor or acting mayor, on written request of any three members of the council, specifying the object and purpose of such meeting, which request shall be read at the meeting and entered at length on the journal.”

Shields said she never signed any written request, and she doesn’t believe three other council members should be able to sign a document at the time of the meeting.

“I believe that this meeting has been called illegally,” Shields said.

Acting Interim City Manager Randi Shannon, and other city officials at the meeting, said the city has been using the same process to call special meetings for several years. They also pointed out that a special meeting was called using the same process on Jan. 6 to discuss the ballfields.

Typically, before the start of each council meeting or work session, a sheet of paper is handed down the row and each council member signs it to declare it an official meeting.

New mayor Leigh House said Shields may be right in that the process hasn’t been following the exact state guidelines, but House said it has been the process the council has utilized for years, and there has never been any intention to deceive the public.

Council member Dave Smail agreed.

“This is the way it’s been done for 33 years that I’ve been going to council meetings, and I’ve been going to more council meetings than anybody,” Smail said.

Shields said she doesn’t think a special meeting should be called just to approve the survey and geotechnical studies for the ballfields.

“I feel that this meeting was totally unnecessary,” Shields said. “This is not an emergency, it’s a baseball field problem…We could have waited and done this next month at our regular meeting.”

Initially, council members Smail and Trent Upshaw were the only two to sign the document at the meeting. During the discussion, council member Kathy Peckman said she would sign the document so the meeting could proceed, but she also made a motion stating that in the future the document calling for a special meeting will be signed prior to the meeting taking place.

City Attorney Lee Tetwiler and council member Upshaw both asked if more clarification needed to be made on how far before the start of the meeting should the document be signed? Peckman said the state regulations just say prior to the start of the meeting, so no specific timeframe was added to her motion. Upshaw pointed out that council members could keep the current process of signing the document just before the start of the meeting and still meet the requirements as worded.

The motion passed unanimously.

Later in the meeting, Shields also chose to sign the document once she learned she would not be able to vote and participate in the meeting unless she did.

The council members then reviewed proposals from two different companies on survey services, geotechnical services and Phase 1 design.

Shannon said the survey and geotechnical services would be for the entire project, but the Phase 1 design is just for the two new turf ballfields proposed to be built north of Wallace Park Drive.

Shannon said the city sent a request for proposals to Mammoth Sports Construction, which has already shown the city some potential designs for new fields; Confluence, which has been updating the city’s comprehensive plan; and Mid-America Sports Construction, which did not submit a proposal.

Confluence’s proposal totaled $145,740, which included $30,370 for survey services, $5,480 for geotechnical services, and $109,890 for the Phase 1 design.

Mammoth’s proposal totaled $74,000, which included $12,000 for survey services, $8,000 for geotechnical services, and $54,000 for the Phase 1 design.

The council voted 3-1 to approve a contract with Mammoth for the survey, geotechnical and design work. The contract does not guarantee that the ballfields project will move forward in Wallace Park, as council members have previously said it will depend on the results of the survey and geotechnical studies.

Council member Shields has repeatedly expressed her concern with building new ballparks in Wallace Park because of its history of flooding, and she voted against the contract.

Council member Peckman said she will be interested to see the results of the studies because the flooding at Wallace Park is a concern of hers as well.

“I’m not really sold on Wallace Park,” Peckman said. “I really want the engineering done on this.”

Senior Managing Editor Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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