Rural Parker resident Mike Page complains to the Parker City Council for taking so long to address the lack of access to his property from Walnut Street at the council's meeting on May 11. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)
PARKER – The Parker City Council on Thursday, May 11, voted to hire an Overland Park law firm to take over the case condemning property to re-establish a one-block section of South Walnut Street.
The move to hire the firm also comes as City Attorney Burton Harding submitted a letter of resignation to Parker officials. The city attorney for La Cygne, Pleasanton, and Mound City, Harding said he intended to continue to remain with those appointments.
City Clerk Carrie Sewell acknowledged on Wednesday that the council had been discussing hiring Geri Hartley, an attorney practicing in Paola, to replace Harding.
At the Thursday meeting, the council voted unanimously to pay a $10,000 retainer to Overland Park law firm Foulston Siefkin LLP following a 20-minute closed-door session with Harding.
Included in the executive session was Lee “Tuff” Hermeck, a representative from McClure Engineering Co., the company that performed the survey. Hermeck asked not to speak in open session about the results of the survey but rather to meet with the council and attorney privately.
The city has been at odds with business owner Dan Gaikowski of Recycling Services, who in 2019 claimed that the city had never purchased land for that one-block section of the street in a deal that happen more than a century ago.
With no proof of the purchase, the city has moved ahead with condemnation proceedings on the strip of land that would run the length of the block and be about 60 feet wide including the right of way.
The vote to hire the metro area firm also came after Mike Page, who lives just south of Recycling Services’ metal salvage yard, demanded to know what action the council was planning to take to reopen access to his property from South Walnut Street.
Although it was outside of Parker city limits, Page’s driveway connected to Walnut Street. Since Gaikowski gated off the road, Page has been forced to use other routes including the Parker Lake road and more recently a drive cut through the church’s lot.
He said that when the issue with Walnut Street began two years ago, everyone thought it would be resolved in a couple of months. It has gone on longer than anyone expected, he added.
“Do I need to move or get another 911 address?” he asked.
He also said that he was concerned about the First Baptist Church, which is located next to the business. He said that it has become an every Sunday event where machinery starts up at 10 a.m. and work continues until services are over at 1 p.m.
Police Officer Cody Kiser took exception to Page’s suggestion that nothing was being done about some of the nuisances that Gaikowski was creating, including installing spikes around signs he had posted in the city’s right of way. Kiser said those had been removed and that the city was working on the situation.
“I’ve been six years waiting on access to my property,” he said. “And I’ve been asking this community for six years to give me access.”
He said that was more than enough time for someone to step up and regulate the community.
Police Chief Craig Haley said that his department had been working to overcome some of the problems, including removing signs.
Page criticized the city’s police department for removing “anti-Christian” signs from city rights of way under the cover of night.
“All that did was bring down retribution on the church and the rest of the community,” he said, referring to the First Baptist Church, which is located next door to the salvage yard.
Page also noted that Gaikowski’s crew was running noisy machinery during services held at the church. He noted in particular the funeral of a child that was disrupted by equipment being operated.
“You know we’ve already had a death around here because they couldn’t find the guy; he ends up dying,” he told the council. “It’s not unreasonable to ask for 911 access.”
Councilman Jason Webber reminded Page that 911 access was granted to him in the 1990s before the road was closed.
Page said there had been booby traps along Baptist Street for several weeks with nothing done about them.
“I think it’s hypocritical to allow a toxic dump to run on the end of town and we can’t get the state, county, city, the feds, anybody that can step up to look at it, and we’re talking about tires and mosquitos.”
Page wasn’t the only person to complain about the conflict between the city and Gaikowski.
Tim Griffin, a former council member, complained that he had not received all of the information he request about the legal costs of the case. He said that he received some information from City Clerk Sewell, but that it did not go far enough back to cover all of the costs.
He demanded that the city send a letter to the citizens of Parker that included a full accounting of the costs.
Harding told Griffin that while the city was obligated to answer the question on all the costs, it was not required to send the letter to all residents as he requested.
Griffin called the operation of the salvage yard during church services “disrespectful.” He said there needs to be a way the city can limit hours that the machinery is operating.
He said that although he lives several blocks away he could hear the plant running one evening as he sat out on his porch.
Mayor Ashley Balthazor told Griffin that the city was working on revising codes and that was an area that could be addressed in that process. – Roger Sims, firstname.lastname@example.org