Another look at the situation of regulating the placement of written materials on the property of Derby homeowners resulted in the City Council following a recommended action of having the staff report back in six months.
The council examined the situation at its Nov. 12 meeting and was undertaking a second reading of the ordinance at the Nov. 26 meeting.
However, in between that period, there was a meeting with city officials and representatives from the Wichita Eagle and ANS Newspapers. ANS is the entity that places the printed materials in Derby under contract with the Eagle.
At issue is concern that the printed material can pile up in driveways and yards, especially if a house is vacant, and can get blown into the street and become litter.
An outright ban on them is not possible as that runs into First Amendment issues and the city would likely lose a legal challenge.
Thus, city officials put their attention on how such materials are located under what they term a “content-neutral ordinance.”
The city had proposed new rules that would require a distributor to place such materials on the front porch in a secure fashion. Other methods could be attached to the front door, through a mail slot or between the screen and front door. However, Eagle officials say those methods would be too time-consuming and increase their labor costs.
“The Eagle opposes passage of this ordinance and would rather see the city allow them and their distributor a chance to work on cleaning up distribution of the product,” said Kiel Mangus, deputy city manager, in his remarks to the council.
Council members agreed with the concept.
“I’m OK with kicking the can down the road and see what kind of feedback we get,” said member Mark Staats.
Staats said the recent conversation has been good and needed. At the same time, he doesn’t want to see the issue continue on without a resolution.
He asked Mangus if he believes the commitment from the Eagle is stronger than it was back in 2008, when the issue also was brought up.
“I hope so. I do think they were sincere in wanting to work with the city,” Mangus said. “They do want to take action.”
One thing that has changed in the past 11 years is that technology has improved, he said, and they also have examples from other markets where similar issues have been handled.
Eagle officials say they want to work with the city and suggested possible answers.
• Establishing a customer service telephone number routed directly to their distribution agent for residents with questions or service issues. The number will be local, not overseas.
• Create a customer service website for Derby. The website is to be used as a method for Derby residents to register delivery issues such as placement requests, temporary stops and starts or a request for delivery of either product to cease at their address. Similar portal websites for Wichita, Park City, Colwich and Andover have been in place.
• Distributors using a device with software that tells the contractor which addresses are to receive delivery and which addresses requested no delivery. They will not deliver to an address where a “Do Not Deliver” request has been made.
Also, the Eagle will publish the opt-out information in the written materials that are delivered once the phone number and website address are established and active.
Until the website is completed and the phone line is activated, ANS has provided to the city an email address and a phone number that can be directly used for complaints, he said.
Member Tom Keil said he, too, is fine with “delaying it for a little bit,” but he had a concern about just communicating on social media. “There’s a lot of people not on social media.”
He suggested an option of doing a mailer.
Member Cheryl Bannon said the city is extending a good-faith effort to the Eagle to make their plans work.
“We’re giving them lots of chances,” she said.
There are two publications distributed in Derby: Neighbors, which is the weekly free paper that goes to about 6,800 households in Derby. It fits the city’s definition of unsolicited written material. People can opt-out of getting it. The other publication is called Sunday Select and it is an opt-in publication. About 1,500 people signed up to get it.
If the proposed ordinance passes, both publications will cease in Derby, representatives said.
Not everyone is opposed to getting the publications. Mangus himself mentioned that his spouse likes to get Sunday Select for the coupons it offers.
Other proposed steps, Mangus said, is for them to not deliver to an address where more than two weeks of newspapers have not been picked up.
Those addresses will be marked on their device as ones that should be updated to Do Not Deliver status.
He also said that in situations with more than two weeks of materials, the carrier will personally remove the publications.
Furthermore, distributors will put a rubber band around each product before delivery.
Such a step will reduce friction when tossed through the air, and that will permit it to travel further up the driveway.
In related moves, unless rain is predicted, the publication won’t be in a plastic bag. Putting it in a bag results in it not being able to move up the driveway as far as without it.
Additionally, when heavy wind conditions are forecasted, the delivery vendor will work to put the materials on grassy areas and not the concrete driveways. That will cut back on them being blown away and into the streets, ANS officials say.
With their sights set on making better use of existing space, city officials are seeking remodeling of the former Fire Station 1 next to the police station on Baltimore and the current Fire Station 82 on Rock Road.
To make that happen, at its Nov. 26 meeting, the City Council approved a contract with WDM Architects for $58,050 for architectural and engineering design services for renovation of the two stations.
There were two proposals received: the one from WDM and another from Agora Architecture for $87,750.
Under the proposal, Station 1 is to be repurposed for use by the Police Department, which has long been the plan.
About half the former fire station would be for police evidence and records storage with offices for two evidence personnel. The other half will be for vehicle garaging and maintenance, including a small space for physical training.
Currently, the bays of the station are open and are being used for vehicle storage.
That station is no longer needed by the fire department as a new station opened this past summer at the corner of Madison and Woodlawn.
For Station 82, the plan is to renovate it to “better comply with current health and safety guidelines for fire stations.”
The plan calls to re-purpose the former chief’s office and adjacent spaces to provide storage for protective equipment and laundry equipment.
The exact layout will come out of the plan, said Deputy City Manager Kiel Mangus, who presented the projects to the council.
One thing that is needed at Station 82 is some sort of reception area, which the new Station 81 has. It would be a space for the public to come into the station when they have an inquiry or need blood pressure checks.
“There needs to be a place where they can take questions from the public,” he said.
Former Fire Chief Brad Smith said there were times people walked in saying they had a medical emergency and asked for help and there was no greeting area for that purpose.
Mangus and Director of Operations Ted Austin, along with members of the fire and police departments, examined both proposals.
The committee recommended WDM Architects based on its fire station and police evidence storage experience.
Other reasons were their stated approach to the project, the fee and schedule and availability of team members. They also have similar experience.
The design will begin now and should take about three months. Then bids for construction will occur.
“We don’t know what the construction schedule will be yet until design is completed since construction schedule will be dictated by the final design,” Mangus said.
The money is available as the 2020 Capital Improvement Plan provides $715,000 from the CIP Reserve Fund for the project. That includes design and construction costs for both sites.
What can the city of Derby do about flooding issues from Spring Creek, now and long into the future?
That, in summary, is what a comprehensive report commissioned by the city is all about. Experts from the firm of Wood Environmental and Infrastructure Solutions were on hand at the Nov. 26 City Council meeting to present their findings and answer questions about the report, called the Spring Creek Flooding Improvement Study.
The study cost $120,000. Dan Squires, director of planning and engineering, said it was money well spent.
“We’ve never had this detailed of a study,” he said. “I think we got exactly what we were looking for.”
Squires said city officials went into the process not knowing if they could do anything cost-effective, but believed that they likely needed to take a look.
In his 17 years with the city, Squires said staff had evaluated solutions, but never have been able to run modeling like this one has, and seeking outside help was the only answer.
“It wouldn’t be cost effective for us to do this anyway, just for the purchasing and licensing of all the models, not to mention the expertise,” he said.
The study’s time-extensive aspect was to build flooding models, then come up with ideas and improvements, put those into the models and then see how they work.
Action is already being taken on two projects as Squires received preliminary data during the budget process.
“The city manager is adamant that if we do a study, we are going to take action,” he said.
The design and construction of the two projects were included in the Capital Improvement Plan approved by the City Council in August. Design of the first project begins in 2020.
In all, the city’s 2020-2024 CIP calls for an estimated expense of $2.1 million of stormwater management facilities projects.
Flooding is one of those situations that residents don’t think much about when it isn’t happening, Squires said.
His department received a lot of flooding comments in 2016 during that year’s major stormwater events, but Squires said that just because this hasn’t been a bad year for flooding that there’s no cause for concern.
Eric Broce, a professional engineer with Wood Environmental and who worked on the study, agreed.
“Stormwater is tough from a public viewpoint,” he said. “Water and sewer is something people use every day, but stormwater is something people only care about when it’s flooding.”
The common feedback, he said, is that people ask: “Why aren’t you spending money on flooding when it’s underway?” Then, when it’s not flooding, they question the expenditures.
But stormwater is “an animal,” Broce said, and preparation is the only answer for it.
Broce and Squires pointed out that water doesn’t care or “respect” city or county lines, fences or any other man-made boundary and will go where it wants to go, unless forcefully redirected.
John Covey, also an engineer with Wood, said Derby’s study was quite sophisticated and beyond what is normally done. The firm used a lot of historical data in its study, including the events from 2016, and worked to attempt to forecast what could happen in the future and how the water might move and the damage that it would cause.
Sedgwick County also has done its own study on the Spring Creek Basin, which was presented in 2014. That study evaluated the entire basin looking at numerous issues including flooding, stormwater quality and erosion.
As Spring Creek runs through Derby, the city took part in the study.
Improvements to address the issues from that study added up to about $200 million. However, that funding has been a roadblock for action steps as county officials have not designated funding to undertake study recommendations.
Last year, the city issued a contract with Wood Environmental to examine issues within Derby.
The study emphasized protection of structures subject to flooding, and street flooding also was evaluated. According to Squires, there are places where both structure and street flooding could be reduced.
City officials wanted to see if they could identify any “cost-effective solutions” that the city could undertake without the county’s participation. That was successful, he said; however, “in other areas, the cost to alleviate flooding was found to be more substantial and difficult to fund at the local level.”