The Great Bend City Council decided Monday night to disregard the recommendations of Carl Otter, the city’s own engineering technician, and of Josh Golka, the city’s on-call engineering consultant with Professional Engineering Consultants, and approve one family’s request to install a circular driveway at their property at Harrison and Broadway.
Mike Nicholson can’t be faulted for making the request. Accompanied by his wife, the couple made a polite and detailed case for their perceived need. Residents for several years, they are active in the community, parents of four children all nearing driving age, and supporters of high school athletics, opening their home for gatherings of the cross country team who, because of the location of their home and its lack of on-street parking, must park around the block in order to get to the house.
They are looking ahead to the future, when their driveway will be filled with several cars and it will be difficult to maneuver without the improvement, they explained. Anyone would sympathize with their situation, and as they were only asking permission, and intend to make all the improvements on their own dime, anyone would have wanted to give them the go ahead.
But City Council members are entrusted to keep in mind the needs of everyone in the community.
Apparently, because some of the council members live near the family, they felt they had enough knowledge and expertise to make a snap decision on the request. The majority of the members voted in favor of approving the request, even after Councilman Wayne Henneke, the sole no vote, asked Golka the question, “if someone were to get in an accident as a result of the council approving this request, could the city be held liable because we chose to approve it against the advice of our engineering technician and our engineering consultant?” Golka referred the question to the city’s attorney, who remained quiet.
It’s both disappointing and striking that this request was so cavalierly approved, while at the same meeting, the council opted to take more time to study a policy proposal by Chief of Police Cliff Couch providing a uniform procedure for dealing with event requests.