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Sweeping Industry News Bulletin

Kansas City, MO, Suspends Sweeping of City Streets

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posted June 2019

The street sweeping program in Kansas City, Missouri, ended up in the gutter this fiscal year because of a deficit in the fund that pays for it.

City Street

Chris Hernandez Since 2005, street sweeping has been funded through a stormwater fee that KC Water customers pay each month. The fee is about $2.50 per household. "That fee has not increased in 16 years, so that fund has been running a deficit," said Communications Director Chris Hernandez. "It's obviously a different level of service, and it's unfortunate whenever you have to make a decision like that."

KC Water is the organization responsible for managing a service area larger than the cities of San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami. With 320 square miles of service territory, KC Water manages is charged with maintaining 630 miles of storm sewer, 53,000 storm inlets, 15 stormwater pump stations and 13.5 miles of levee. Unfortunately, the cost has added up to more than the stormwater fund could handle, necessitating the $1.4 million cut in street sweeping.

The city was able to salvage some services, so the department will continue to provide catch basin cleaning and repair in order to keep debris out of the stormwater system. Flood monitoring and leaf and brush pickup will continue as well. However, the city has not identified funding to regularly clear bike lanes. This problem is compounded by a planned Kansas City Master Bike Plan, which is projected to build out bike lanes throughout KC.

Shawn Toliver That makes the lack of sweeping especially frustrating for people who rely on the lanes to get to work each day. According to reporting on the issue, resident Shawn Toliver has reported problem areas to 311 (KC's reporting number) multiple times, with little-to-no effect. "You have to ride in the street with traffic, which defeats the point of having a bike lane," Toliver said. "We have the Kansas City master bike plan coming up. We're going to build out hundreds of miles of bike lanes across the city. We have to have some mechanism for keeping those clean or it's a wasted investment."

Biker Hernandez said a city work group is trying to find a solution. For Toliver and others who use the bike lanes, that can't come soon enough. "As we move forward and become a more bike-friendly city and continue to add bike lanes, we have to make sure we are maintaining those lanes," he said. The city also is searching for a long-term solution to address the deficit in the stormwater fund.

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Gale Holsman Photo 2019

We spoke to Gale Holsman, president of KC-based American Sweeping, Inc. and a 35-year veteran of providing power sweeping services to the Greater Kansas City area. His company provides business, parking lot sweeping to many businesses in the Kansas City area, and performed road sweeping for state DOTs for many years. Gale is also on the Advisory Board of the World Sweeping Association:

"It's truly unfortunate Kansas City is having to discontinue its street sweeping program. The basic problem appears to be not earmarking the funding needed to keep the sweeping operational, even though $1.5 billion was found for the new airport terminal.

"There's no doubt that the impact on KC's downtown business core will be tremendous in terms of how residents and visitors will view the cleanliness of the city. That is troubling and potentially costly to the business community, of course.

"However, knowing what I do about how much pollution city street sweeping programs remove before it can run into rivers and become suspended in the air such that people are breathing it, an even greater problem involves the environmental impact of not sweeping.

"Sweeping is the first line of defense when it comes to pavement-based pollution removal and by not sweeping there is certain to be more pollutant pressure placed on the Missouri River as it flows through Kansas City.

"My hope is that with a new mayoral administration getting elected, which will happen this month, they will understand that sweeping is not just about cosmetics, as serious as that is, but also about environmental cleanup. If they educate themselves about the many values of sweeping city streets, there's little question the program will start back up."

KSHB Logo Some of the material for this article came originally from a story by Kansas City's KSHB news outlet.

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