Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

KDOT agrees to help fund portion of road project

September 27, 2007

State officials agreed to commit around $400,000 in funding Thursday, Sept. 20, that will lessen Leavenworth County's share of the rising costs for the County Road 1 improvement project.

In an early morning teleconference, Kansas Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Jerry Younger told the Leavenworth County Commission, "I think KDOT recognizes that it shares some of the responsibility here."

A recent change in plans that includes a tie-in to County Road 1 from U.S. Highway 24-40 south of Honey Creek Road has raised the cost of the undertaking, originally estimated at $12.9 million, by approximately $800,000, according to figures mentioned both by Younger and county officials.

The tie-in is aimed at making the intersection southwest of Tonganoxie more perpendicular and, thus, safer, Leavenworth Deputy Director of Public Works Mike Spickelmier said.

Eventually the entire project, which will widen and level six miles of County Road 1 from U.S. 24-40 to Kansas Highway 32, will give Leavenworth County its first direct access to the federal interstate system.

After their conversation with KDOT and Kansas Turnpike Authority officials, county personnel discussed further ways to cut the cost of the tie-in.

Spickelmier said as the change is included in engineering consultant HNTB's plans, the county could still research solutions that were more economical.

3rd District Commissioner Dean Oroke has vocally opposed KDOT's recommendation to move the tie-in south of Honey Creek Road where drainage culverts would need to be installed.

Oroke has advocated the tie-in go north of Honey Creek near the Heartland Community Church of the Nazarene, where a ridgeline would make construction less costly.

Oroke also questioned why Honey Creek Road west of U.S. 24-40 was included in the KDOT proposal.

"I have no problem closing Kansas Avenue or Honey Creek east of 24-40," he said, "But I don't see Honey Creek west of 24-40 as part of this."

Meanwhile, as planning progresses, county officials are preparing to begin the land acquisition process along County Road 1 and are moving ahead with requests for proposals for planning and wastewater consulting services.

As of now, Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said the county is willing to commit up to $10.5 million to the entire project out of sales tax money.

The KTA has also committed $2 million to the project, and a federal earmark of $500,000 has been procured as well.

Added to that $13 million in funding, now, is whatever KDOT ends up contributing.

"We'll continue to have conversations with Leavenworth County," Younger said. "What I really want to make sure of is that we begin working now."

In other business Thursday, the board:

¢ Continued talks on a possible bond issue for impending, large-scale projects in the county.

Commissioners worked on setting an amount needing to be borrowed that Tellefson said could be used for roads, a communications upgrade and other infrastructure projects.

Van Parys said a 2004 estimate projected that the sales tax, which runs through 2016, would generate roughly $27.2 million.

Graeber emphasized that the federally mandated communications upgrade for county emergency service providers, which Sheriff David Zoellner estimated at $12.4 million, is something the county must do and cannot be brushed aside.

¢ Discussed creating a codes court to control nuisances in the county and to enforce codes such as the burning ban and vicious dog ban.

Van Parys said he would like to have a codes court in place and operating by Nov. 1.

An expenditure of $68,000 for the program was included in the 2008 budget.

¢ Signed an interlocal agreement with Water District No. 1 of Johnson County recognizing that the county will adopt zoning regulations that will allow WaterOne to store sediment removed from drinking water pumped from the Missouri River in a residual monofill in Leavenworth.

As part of the interlocal agreement, WaterOne agreed "to not assert any claim of qualified zoning immunity" and to claim responsibility for any environmental issues.

¢ Voted, 3-0, to approve a federal, Title V grant request submitted by Juvenile Services Director Bob Doyle for the third and final year of the department's truancy reduction program in the amount of $32,164.

¢ Voted, 3-0, to honor a request from Nancy and Norman Younger for exemption to a moratorium on building one and a half miles east and west County Road 1, one-half mile south of K-32 and one-half mile north of Kansas Avenue.

The Youngers want to replace an old home off of 214th Street that they feel is substandard with a new home, Planning and Zoning Director Chris Dunn said.

In business Monday, the board:

¢ Explored ways to reduce county worker's compensation premiums by meeting criteria set by the Kansas Eastern Region Insurance Trust (KERIT).

KERIT mandates that 50 percent of all county employees complete one of three programs each year to get a reduction in premiums. Those programs are a wellness program, a defensive driving course or a physical assessment, Kim Jackson, Leavenworth County Safety Committee Chair, said.

If compliant, the county would save approximately $2,000, Jackson said.

Commissioner Graeber noted that it would cost the county more in lost productivity for employees to participate than what is saved in reduced premiums.

"I'm of the mindset that we're doing all of this, not to save money ... but to keep employees from getting hurt," Jackson responded.

Commissioner Tellefson agreed that the end gain of using a physical assessment is reducing medical costs.

Tellefson suggested contacting Leavenworth city officials to possibly arrange a free gym membership at the Leavenworth Community Center for participants as an incentive to take part in the assessment.

Commissioner Oroke expressed his unhappiness with KERIT saying that even though approximately 75 county employees were previously certified for three years through the defensive driving course, KERIT mandates that the county still require 50 percent of its employees to participate this year.

The commissioners requested that Safety Committee members schedule a meeting with KERIT safety consultant Chuck Pirie on Oct. 4.

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