Archive for Thursday, October 7, 2010

Residents saddled with more costs for chip-seal road

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

October 7, 2010

Residents of two rural subdivisions southwest of Basehor will pay about $10,000 more than original Leavenworth County estimates for street improvements made earlier this month, causing one county commissioner to raise concerns about estimates for construction projects paid for by residents.

The Leavenworth County Commission voted, 2-1, Thursday, Sept. 30, to increase the cost paid by residents for chip-sealing gravel roads running through the Stoner and Lo-Mar subdivisions. The new cost to residents will be just short of $85,000, compared with an estimate of $75,000 given by the county public works department when the residents and the commission agreed to form a benefit district to chip-seal the roads.

The increase in the residents' bill is due to materials costs that were higher than county estimates.

Commissioner John Flower opposed the measure passing the extra cost on to the residents. Flower said the extra $10,000 should come out of the county's budget, because residents agreed to form the benefit district based on a lower estimate and the chip-seal would save the county money in the long term because less maintenance will be required.

“I just think it's a shame that we tell people one thing and do something else,” Flower said.

Commissioner J.C. Tellefson, who voted for the measure, said that variations in cost were an unavoidable part of the construction business. Residents of a benefit district had to assume the risk that a project might cost more than estimated, just as someone paying a contractor for house improvements might have to pay more than the original bid.

“It's not an exact science,” Tellefson said.

Mickey Swartzkopf, deputy county engineer, told the commissioners that the $10,000 increase would lead to about $40 more in payments each year for residents of the benefit district: an increase from $327 annually to about $370.

The Stoner/Lo-Mar street project began after residents of the subdivisions petitioned the county to create a benefit district to chip-seal the roads while workers were already in the area doing similar work on nearby 166th Street. The County Commission agreed to create the benefit district after 62 percent of the residents in the area agreed to it. The county will self-finance the construction with a 10-year loan with 3 percent interest.

Swartzkopf said one reason the county's estimate for the project was low was that he had not included a 15-percent contingency increase in the estimate given to the Stoner and Lo-Mar residents, a usual practice with county construction estimates. He said the county had tried to give the residents the lowest estimate possible.

Flower said he understood the desire to give the residents an appealing figure, but the county had to be realistic with the estimates it presented. He said he’d prefer for projects to come in at a cost below their estimates, not above.

“In the business, you say, 'Promise long; deliver short,'” Flower said.

Tellefson said he agreed on that point.

“We don't do anybody any services by giving them a number that's not achievable,” Tellefson said.

The county held a public meeting Wednesday evening at the Basehor Community Library to discuss the costs of the project. The commission will also have a public hearing on the subject at 9:15 a.m. Monday during the commission meeting at the Leavenworth County Courthouse, 300 Walnut St. in Leavenworth.

This story has been corrected to reflect that 62 percent of the residents of the benefit district area agreed to the project.

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