Basehor City Council approves $1 million Wolf Creek Parkway grant
The Basehor City Council placed its faith in future development along U.S. Highway 24-40 on Monday. The council agreed by a split vote to accept a $1 million state grant offer to construct a new road just north of the highway.
The city will pick up the rest of the cost of the extension of Wolf Creek Parkway from 155th Street to 158th Street, which city staff members estimate to be about $260,000.
The vote by the council was 3-2 to approve a grant agreement with KDOT. Members Fred Box and Iris Dysart opposed the agreement.
The decision came after a number of leaders and residents spoke for and against the project at the beginning of the council's meeting. Supporters of the new road said the city should prepare for future growth along the highway by improving traffic and creating access to more potential business sites, and detractors said the city should not extend Wolf Creek Parkway when no businesses currently exist along the existing portion.
Former council member Jim Washington gave a presentation in support of the project. He said he had studied academic research on the subject, and numerous studies had shown that improving highway traffic through a city, as the new road is designed to do for U.S. 24-40 through Basehor, led to business development.
He also warned that the rejection of the grant might hurt the city’s chances of receiving another offer of help from the state in the future.
“Basehor will have a reputation for making bad decisions based on prejudice and emotion and not based on logic,” Washington said. “And Basehor retail and commercial development will be stagnant for another decade.”
Former council member Terry Thomas also backed the project, saying the city needed to prepare for economic growth that would occur as the economy recovers, and the grant was an opportunity to do so.
“It's almost like a free lunch,” Thomas said, “There aren't many of those out there.”
Bill New, chairman of First State Bank and Trust, said that putting in place infrastructure such as new roads would be necessary to draw economic development to Basehor.
“If the trafficway is completed, there will ultimately be development on that street, and it will be positive for the city of Basehor,” New said.
But Dysart said the city's resources could be better used on other road projects, especially when development has yet to occur along the portion of Wolf Creek Parkway that already exists, east of 155th St.
“Why would we open up another one across the road when we can't even do anything with the one that we opened?” Dysart said.
Basehor resident Elaine Bundy also questioned the benefit of the new road, saying any future businesses there would not be visible from the highway.
“This road, to me, is just going to be a nowhere road,” Bundy said.
Representatives from two restaurants in the shopping area on the northwest corner of 155th and U.S. 24-40, Kelley's Grille and Bar and Sonic Drive-In, both spoke against another alteration that KDOT had recommended as part of the new project. KDOT had suggested that the project also include the removal of the right-turn entrance to the shopping area along the highway, though that change is not part of the agreement approved by the council.
Charlie Krout, supervising partner for Sonic, said the nearby entrance from the highway was a big reason the restaurant's owners had chosen that location.
“Let's not close off businesses that have already invested in Basehor,” Krout said.
Loughry said after the meeting that KDOT planned to remove that entrance at some point in the future, but the decision to do so would not be connected to the Wolf Creek Parkway project. He said there was no way to know when KDOT might decide to close the entrance, and the city would have no input in the decision.
Council member Fred Box said he voted against the agreement because the city should have negotiated for an agreement from KDOT that the entrance would not be closed. He predicted that KDOT would close the entrance almost immediately after the council approved the Wolf Creek Parkway agreement.
“I guarantee you they're going to close that,” Box said. “You take it to the bank.”
KDOT offered the $1 million grant to Basehor in February as part of its Corridor Management Program, through which it funds road construction projects designed to improve traffic along highway corridors. The extension of Wolf Creek Parkway would serve as a frontage road, designed to draw drivers away from the highway and thin out traffic. City staff submitted a proposal for the project to KDOT in fall 2010.
Funding for the city's portion of the project will come from the city's consolidated highway fund, which receives money from state gasoline taxes and local business sales and use taxes.
The council also awarded an engineering contract for the Wolf Creek Parkway project on Monday, selecting Overland Park-based Affinis Corp. by a vote of 3-2. Members David Breuer and Travis Miles voted against the selection.
Affinis submitted the second-highest bid of the three firms that the council invited to submit, and the selection of Affinis over the lowest bidder, Wichita-based Professional Engineering Consultants, will increase the cost of the project by about $20,000.
The selection of Affinis came after Box, Dysart and member Dennis Mertz voted against the selection of PEC. All three said they rejected PEC because the firm’s proposed project manager did not have enough experience, having not yet served in that role for a completed project.
Read about the rest of the action at Monday's city council meeting here.