FRONTENAC — Last summer, the City of Frontenac sued Pittsburg over its construction of the section of Wild Red Road that connects it to East Atkinson Ave. just before Atkinson turns to connect with North Rouse and South Cayuga streets. Less than a year later, the Frontenac City Council has approved a tentative agreement this week with the City of Pittsburg that — if approved by the Pittsburg City Commission — will result in that lawsuit being dismissed.
“If we approve the agreement tonight, Pittsburg then will put it on their agenda and it will be approved by them next week and then we’ll notify the court and the case should then be dismissed,” Frontenac City Attorney Steve Angermayer said at Monday’s city council meeting, which was held via teleconference because of the ongoing coronavirus stay-at-home order.
Last summer, then-Frontenac City Attorney Tim Fielder said filing the lawsuit against the City of Pittsburg was necessary because Pittsburg had illegally constructed the section of road within Frontenac’s city limits and was not willing to negotiate acceptable terms of a deal regarding the road.
“There’s no sense of wrongdoing on Pittsburg’s part but rather a sense of entitlement to do as it pleases, and they don’t offer to stop the trespass or the taking, but rather demands that the City of Frontenac agree to codify the taking of its corporate territory, pursuant to Pittsburg’s terms,” Fielder said at the time. “Pittsburg’s terms do not offer payment of damages or compensation to the city. We’re just to accept it and like it.”
Fielder said last July that challenging Pittsburg’s construction of the road could set a precedent for further encroachment into Frontenac’s city limits.
“If we ignore it now, we’d have allowed a de-facto de-annexation in my opinion,” Fielder said last July. “But the other thing is, is that we’re inviting them to do whatever they want to do.”
Current Frontenac City Attorney Steve Angermayer said, however, that the new agreement approved Monday by the Frontenac City Council would prevent future encroachment.
“They will not otherwise cause any other construction or infringe on our right-of-way any further,” Angermayer said. “They will also install 8 LEDs around the stop sign, so if you have driven through the town of Girard lately at night you can see the blinking diodes that come on at night on the stop sign, that’s what’s going to be what we’re going to have, similar, on this stop sign.”
The agreement also states that “Pittsburg will request Evergy or its successor or assign to install an overhead lighting system” at the intersection of Wild Red Road and Atkinson.
Councilman Mike Snow made the motion to approve the agreement, which was seconded by Councilwoman Lynn Grant and approved unanimously.
Fielder, who was later fired at a city council meeting in September along with the former city administrator and clerk, and along with those other two former city employees is now suing the City of Frontenac, could not be reached for comment this week.
Former Frontenac Mayor Linda Grilz, however, who resigned at the same meeting where those employees were fired, spoke to the Morning Sun this week about the Wild Red Road lawsuit.
“We went through a lot of pain over that road and we wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t in the city’s vital interest,” Grilz said.
“We were concerned about the message that’s sent when you let another town invade your boundary and what the long-term repercussions of that would be,” she added.
If the current council has “agreed to something that provides long-term protection to the City of Frontenac with regard to annexation — or deannexation — if they’ve got the city covered then, you know, that’s good,” Grilz said.
She said having overhead lighting installed at the intersection would also be beneficial because it is dark there at night.
“To citizens that are out there, they just see a road and a nice access from that new development to, you know, have more than one way out, and I totally understand that,” Grilz said.
“I just don't want to see the citizens of Frontenac have to pay anything for a road that was put into their city without their knowledge ahead of time, and then just ask for forgiveness later, and that was what we were all about,” she said.
“It’s pretty easy to make decisions today but it’s very difficult to have a crystal ball and figure out what might happen down the road.”