Heads butt over streets, sewers at Woodward City Council meeting

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AccuJet was hired in April to make a complete inspection and cleaning of Woodward's sanitary sewer system.

Public infrastructure issues — water, streets and sewers — dominated the May 9 meeting of the Woodward City Council. About 30 members of the public attended the two-hour session.

A zoning change returned to the agenda to stir the passions of the council. After tabling the measure at the February and March meetings, the council Monday night approved the first reading of the ordinance amending the zoning near Hawk Stadium from one- and two-family residential (R-2) to multi-family residential (R-3).

The rezoning is sought by local property developers Wayde and Julie Burkhart of Woodward, who want to build a 24-unit apartment complex on the northeast corner of Fifth and Cedar streets. The apartment house would stand near Hawk Stadium, where the Woodward-Granger High School and Woodward Academy football teams play.

The Woodward Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the zoning change to the city council in December, but progress stalled when the council twice postponed the first of three required readings of the resolution.

Monday’s vote to approve the first reading was four to one, with council member Dave Luke vehemently opposing the zoning amendment and council member Craig DeHoet making the case in favor of rezoning.

DeHoet drew the council’s attention to a letter submitted by Woodward Public Works Director Chris Newland and Woodward City Engineer Bob Veenstra of Veenstra and Kim Engineering, who jointly evaluated the effect of a 24-unit apartment house on the city’s sanitary sewer system flow rate.

“To sum this up,” DeHoet said, “the last paragraph says, ‘The addition of a 24-unit building will not have a significant impact on the flows in the sanitary sewer system. The flow rates will be equivalent to one or two single-family residences with active flowing foundation drains.’ With that in mind, I feel comfortable moving forward with the zoning approval change for the development.”

The proposed Hawk Stadium Apartments would be located near the intersection of E. Fifth and Birch streets in Woodward.
The proposed Hawk Stadium Apartments would be located near the intersection of E. Fifth and Birch streets in Woodward.

Luke said he was surprised the issue was again on the council’s agenda and “thought we agreed we were going to get the sewers cleaned and see where we were at.”

AccuJet was hired in April to make a complete inspection and cleaning of Woodward's sanitary sewer system.
AccuJet was hired in April to make a complete inspection and cleaning of Woodward’s sanitary sewer system. Photo courtesy AccuJet

The council voted in April to hire Perry-based AccuJet to clean the city’s entire sanitary sewer system and to visually inspect it with video cameras. The sewer and drain cleaning company is nearly done with its jetting and inspection, according to Newland. He said AccuJet has discovered numerous large chunks of asphalt in the sanitary sewer lines.

Luke rejected the opinion expressed in the city engineer’s letter because it was based not on data from Woodward’s own sanitary sewers but on the general hydrological properties of water and the flow rates of sanitary sewers everywhere.

Dave Luke
Dave Luke

“I’m not going to throw the people in my neighborhood under the bus,” Luke said to DeHoet, “because you and Chris have Veenstra and Kim send this letter out saying our sewer system is adequate to provide protection for the people who are already having problems.”

DeHoet defended the science behind Veenstra’s letter.

Craig DeHoet
Craig DeHoet

“We have to go off the projections from the engineers,” he said, and not act on irrational motives. “We’re talking about the impact this apartment building would have and, again, these are mathematical projections based on the number of sinks and showers and toilets. This is math that these engineers do.”

“I get it, Craig, that you want to see progress in Woodward,” Luke said. “I totally understand that because it’s about the dollar. You want to see more revenue. But you know what? I’m not going to abandon the people that I have lived by for years and years and years because you want to make a buck for the city. You owe something to the people of this community to keep their properties safe.”

DeHoet repeated his defense of the engineer’s calculations, but Luke was unmoved, saying, “If you want to sell the people that live in that area and throw them under the bus for the dollar, if you feel comfortable doing that, then you move forward. I don’t. I’m not going to do that to those people.”

“For the record, I don’t feel that I’m throwing anybody under the bus,” DeHoet said. “I’m trying to make the best decisions I can for the community, just as you’re doing.”

After brief remarks by several other council members, the resolution was approved. A second and third reading will require similar approval before a zoning change takes place. Wayde Burkhart said he was pleased by the council’s action but not triumphant.

“A lot of people said, ‘Well, you won tonight,'” Burkhart said. “And I said, ‘No. I’ve gone over a hurdle. There’s two more hurdles to go.’ I do not think I won anything, and I do not consider it a victory. This is only the first reading. There are still two readings that have to be done over the next two months. Opinions can change. Information can change. I’m hopefully optimistic that it will go through the next readings, but it’s kind of like watching a James Bond film. You never say never.”

Equally contentious were the council’s deliberations on the issue of operating heavy equipment and oversized farm machinery on Woodward’s recently repaved side streets.

“I think there’s a couple of real important things here,” said DeHoet, who put the item on the council agenda. “One is we’re a rural community. We’re a farming community. We always have been. I think it’s important that they have access to their fields. And we have a local businessman that’s running a business that has large trucks in town. At the same time, we need to make sure that the streets that are being used are being used appropriately and protected. So I asked that this be put on the agenda so we could discuss it and decide which direction we want to go.”

In the ensuing discussion, a complaint was lodged about a Woodward resident who parks his semi-tractor or bobtail truck on a street and in an alleyway. Council member Todd Folkerts, who drives a truck, said many delivery trucks and garbage trucks that regularly use the city’s streets are much heavier than a bobtail.

Local farmer Karl Harris, right, explains why he frequently drives a large tractor and field cultivator along E. Third Street in Woodward. Brian Crnkovich, left, complained the equipment damages the streets and is a safety hazard.
Local farmer Karl Harris, right, explains why he frequently drives a large tractor and field cultivator along E. Third Street in Woodward. Brian Crnkovich, left, complained the equipment damages the streets and is a safety hazard.

Brian Crnkovich of Woodward described a recent incident in which Karl Harris of Bouton, who farms about three acres of ground on Woodward’s east side for Ashvin Patel of Woodward, drove a large tractor and field cultivator along Locust and E. Third streets, knocking down overhead lines and barely clearing trees and poles.

“You just spent $3 million” repaving the city streets, Crnkovich said. “I saw that big piece of equipment going down that street, and it don’t look right.” He said the daycare center at the end of E. Third Street raises a safety issue that “needs to be addressed. I don’t want to keep him from farming that field, but that’s not the way to access that field.”

After additional discussion, the council moved to refer the issue to its Streets Committee.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m all for Woodward growing but before we even attempt expanding this city, the sewer issues need to be resolved. This sewer project was supposed to be completed in 2011 to reduce infiltration into the sewer system. More citizens need to let their council know their thoughts. Thank you, Mr. Luke, for standing up for your voters and not backing down like the other council members do.

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