City backs KDOT’s plan for MPO votes

By Corene Brisendine

City commissioners decided Tuesday to support a Kansas Department of Transportation proposal giving the city three votes on the new Metropolitan Planning Organization, while giving other area governments and KDOT itself the remaining six votes.

They did so after commissioners Wynn Butler asked the other commissioners how he should vote when the organization took up the question, which it planned to do Wednesday afternoon.

The fiscal agreement proposed by KDOT would have financial matters broken into two categories with two separate processes. The first category would focus on decisions relating to activities required by federal law. Passage of those activities would require support from a minimum of six of the nine voting members to pass.

Commissioner John Matta said he would not support this portion of the proposed agreement because it could cause the city of Manhattan to be “dictated” to by the minority. Matta said that since Manhattan is required to shoulder 60 percent of the cost, it should have 60 percent of the vote.

As presently envisioned, Manhattan would carry three of the nine votes with Junction City having two; Riley, Geary, and Pottawatomie counties each having one; and KDOT also having a vote.

That means if the remaining six voters voted against Manhattan, the city would be required to foot 60 percent of the bill even though if it did not support the project.

Mayor Loren Pepperd said in reality Manhattan has four votes, counting the one to be cast by Riley County. He said he didn’t believe representatives from Riley County—or even Pottawatomie County—would vote against Manhattan.

Commissioner Rich Jankovich said he understood where Matta was coming from, but added that all the MPO representatives (except the KDOT representative) will be elected officials and responsible to the entities they represent.

“By expanding it, we change the dynamic a little bit, and I hope I never wake up to regret what I’m saying, but I think I can live with the KDOT side,” Jankovich said.

The second category involves those projects not required by federal law. Approval of those projects would require the votes of seven of the nine members.

Butler said Manhattan will have to pay $112,145 in 2014 and $141,735 in 2015 just to create the MPO, which does not include any construction projects that will be developed out of that organization. The total operating cost for 2014 is estimated at $396,947 and $396,524 in 2015. KDOT has also offered to provide about $100,000 in development of the Travel Demand Model, which accounts for $200,000 and $100,000 in costs for each year respectively.

Commissioner James Sherow said the commission agreed to widen the organization, and therefore the city must be willing to work with others to create better traffic flow among the communities.

In the end, Sherow, Jankovich and Pepperd supported KDOTs proposal.

Butler said he would vote to support the proposal during the organization’s meeting, which was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the City Commission Room at City Hall.

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