Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bureaucratic mix up may tie up federal funds for County Road 1

February 20, 2008

It could be a couple of months longer than expected before a nearly $500,000 federal earmark appropriated for County Road 1 leading to a planned interchange with Interstate 70 is eligible for expenditure.

Leavenworth County Public Works director Mike Spickelmier told county commissioners Tuesday that, until the project is listed in the Mid-America Regional Council's Transportation Improvement Plan, his department cannot begin acquiring right-of-way south of I-70 to Kansas Highway 32, the portion of the project for which federal funds have been designated.

"This has potential to delay the project," Spickelmier said.

As the metropolitan planning organization for greater Kansas City, any federal transportation dollars must be funneled through MARC and must be in accordance with its long-range plan.

Spickelmier said MARC representatives have repeatedly been informed of the CR-1 project, and planning and zoning director Chris Dunn presented the board with a March 2006 e-mail from MARC's director of transportation, Mel Henderson, assuring commissioners that CR-1 would eventually be included in the plan.

"I guarantee you, we did everything they (MARC) asked for," Dunn said.

Reached for comment Tuesday, Henderson said an amendment or addition to MARC's long-range plan would be needed before the go-ahead is given for the county to expend the federal earmark.

Henderson added he assumed a proposed change could go to MARC's Total Transportation Policy Committee in March and could be up for final approval in April.

"We don't have any objections to the project," he said. "We're just trying to cross all of our T's and dot all of our I's, so we can get this thing moving."

Commissioner Clyde Graeber asked whether the board could, in essence, approve a loan to the CR-1 fund, to be repaid when federal funds are made available.

Spickelmier said that would not be possible and added Kansas Turnpike Authority funds could not be used either, as they might "muddy the waters" between state and federal money.

So far, the KTA has committed $2 million to the approximately $14.3 million project, which will give Leavenworth County its first direct access to a federal interstate, with commissioners willing to contribute up to $10.8 million in special sales tax revenue. The federal earmark would add almost $500,000 in funding. A contribution from the Kansas Department of Transportation for a tie-in with U.S. Highway 24-40 has yet to be determined.

Tuesday's discussion was cut short by a motion to go into executive session for 10 minutes to discuss acquisition of real property, which carried 2-0 (Commissioner Dean Oroke abstained).

The County Road 1 project was also a topic of discussion in the board's meeting Thursday, Feb. 14, when Leavenworth resident and former County Commissioner Louis Klemp requested a firm total of what the improvements would cost.

"We have not been able to get from you, as a group, a final figure of how high we're going to go on this," Klemp said.

He added that taxpayers deserved to know how much of the county's anticipated $30 million revenue from a 10-year sales tax would be used for CR-1 and asked what the city of Tonganoxie's contribution would be.

Commissioner Graeber said the county treasurer's most recent projection for special sales tax revenue, which expires in 2016, was just over $27 million not $30 million.

He noted that when $8 million was estimated as the county's contribution in August 2006, it was thought the city of Tonganoxie would spend up to $2.8 million as well.

Graeber said commissioners are trying to set up a meeting with Tonganoxie officials to share each other's input.

He also said the commission is waiting for a final commitment from KDOT and for final figures from the county's land-use consultant, Lathrop & Gage.

"Before anything happens, we will establish vehicles by which we will recoup all of these monies," Commissioner J.C. Tellefson assured Klemp.

Tellefson estimated that with 9-cent per square foot franchise fees in a 230-acre parcel along CR-1 that generated around $260 in agricultural production taxes two years ago could eventually create more than $900,000 for the county once development occurs.

"So if it was a good investment at $8 million when the county wasn't going to get any of those funds, it's an extraordinarily good investment at $10.8 million or anything more than that if I'm going to get all of the development fees : south of Honey Creek Road," he said.

Klemp countered, "It's nice to roll these dice, but it makes it a lot harder if you're rolling the dice on your own money, because then if you happen to be addicted to spending money and not caring how you gamble. I think this is truly a gamble."

Meanwhile, Graeber, who originally voted against funding the project, said with the bridge over I-70 already down and with the KTA having made a "monstrous" commitment, "I think we're in a position where we must go ahead and try to get the best figure we can as soon as possible."

He added that any figures the county currently has are available to any member of the public but warned that there is a "tremendous amount of contingency built in there."

In other business Tuesday, the board:

¢ Accepted, 3-0, a low bid for chemicals to combat noxious weeds in the county from Tonganoxie-based McGraw's Fertilizer Service Inc. at a total of $42,887.


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