Archive for Thursday, June 9, 2011

Basehor mulling ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ from KDOT grant

Basehor City Hall is home of the Basehor City Council

Basehor City Hall is home of the Basehor City Council

June 9, 2011

The state’s $1 million offer to help pay for a new Basehor road just north of U.S. Highway 24-40 is a gift the city can’t afford to pass up, Mayor Terry Hill said Monday.

At the Basehor City Council’s work session, Hill spoke in favor of the extension of Wolf Creek Parkway from 155th Street to 158th Street using a Kansas Department of Transportation grant, as the council prepared to make a decision on whether to accept the grant later this month.

“It’s, for me, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hill said, “to have that size of a grant come into the city from the state to build a road to attract businesses to our little community.”

If the city council accepts the lowest of three engineering bids for the project, city officials estimate that the project would cost about $1.26 million overall, which would leave the city on the hook for about $260,000.

The council will consider whether to accept the grant from KDOT and award an engineering contract at its regular meeting June 20.

Though the purpose of the new road from KDOT’s perspective would be to alleviate traffic on U.S. 24-40 through Basehor, Hill said that what makes it a golden opportunity for Basehor is that it would create more access to possible commercial property just off the highway.

Just because economic growth has stagnated in the last few years doesn’t mean Basehor shouldn’t prepare for future growth that could result from businesses moving into the Village West area of Kansas City, Kan., he said.

“I think there’s some folks that are thinking about investing a lot of money in the western Wyandotte County area,” Hill said, “and we have to be ready if it spills over this way and not lose to the surrounding cities because we’re not prepared.”

And turning down the grant would not save any taxpayer money at the state level, Hill said, because the money would simply be offered to another city through KDOT’s Corridor Management Program.

If the council decides later this month to accept the KDOT grant and move forward with the new road, its next task will be to choose a contractor to engineer and design the road.

During discussion about the engineering contract, two council members, Fred Box and Iris Dysart, raised concerns that the city’s staff had effectively made the decision to award the contract rather than leaving the decision to the city council. The staff recommended that the contract be awarded to Professional Engineering Consultants, which made the lowest bid out of the three firms the council selected to submit bids in its March meeting.

“It looks like staff’s made the decision to take PEC, and it’s in our face,” Dysart said.

Hill interjected in the discussion to say that city staff had not made a decision but had simply made a recommendation, as it customarily does on any decision that comes before the council.

City attorney Patrick Reavey said that if the council did not award the contract to the lowest bidder, it risked the possibility of a lawsuit from the firm to recoup the expense of preparing its bid, which could be several thousand dollars. He also mentioned that possibility, which is based on a recent Kansas Supreme Court decision, in February when the council decided to select three qualified bidders rather than having an open invitation for bids.

But Box said that because he wasn’t on the council in March when it selected the three firms to bid on the project, he wanted a chance to see presentations from the firms before he voted for one to receive the contract.

“I’m as qualified to see it as everyone else,” Box said.

After Box and Dysart raised their concerns, city administrator Mark Loughry said the city would invite all three engineering firms to make presentations at the full meeting later this month.

Also at the work session, the council discussed:

• The city’s telephone franchise agreement with AT&T. Council members who spoke about the issue supported keeping the city’s franchise fee at its current level — 3 percent of gross receipts — rather than increasing it to a flat monthly fee of $2.50 per service line, which would increase revenue for the city. They said they wanted to avoid passing the extra cost on to residents.

• A possible location for a future city hall building in the Basehor Town Center development, near the new Basehor Intermediate School.

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