WESTMORELAND — A partner in REES Development took issue with statements by Pottawatomie County officials a newspaper article last week regarding proposed improvements to Excel Road north of U.S. Highway 24 east of Manhattan.
In a March 13 letter to county commissioners, Robert Riat of rural Wamego took exception to comments attributed in the article published March 11 in The Mercury — as well as in weekly newspapers in Pott County.
The newspaper article referenced a Memorandum of Understanding between Pottawatomie County and property developers outlining responsibilities of both parties in improvements to Excel Rd.
At Riat’s request, the letter was read aloud at Monday’s county commission meeting by county counselor John Watt, who also advised commissioners not to comment on the letter “at this point.”
Riat, an equal stockholder in REES Development, which owns property on the east side of Excel Rd., objected to a statement in the article attributed to Leu Lowrey, public works director. He also said nothing was mentioned at recent planning meetings regarding developers paying for sewer line inspection fees or posting a letter of credit for the project.
Lowrey was quoted in the March 11 article as saying, “The only reason we’re doing this is to serve those developments on both sides of Excel Rd.”
“I want to strongly object to that statement,” Riat said in his letter, “and I believe an apology is in order––printed in The Mercury!
“The county is the one who requested we extend that sewer line north on Excel Rd. and the county is the one who requested that it be oversized for future development to the north of our property.”
Riat said he was also unaware the county wanted developers to pay for the inspection cost of the sewer line, and said the county should pay a majority of the cost since it is requiring the line to be oversized.
“Well, as an equal voting member of REES development, I had no knowledge of any request by the county that we would have to pay this cost, and we have never discussed this or had knowledge of it in one of our meetings,” Riat said. “So, I ask you whose fault is that –– now that you have made us look bad in the newspaper?”
In addition, Riat said nothing was mentioned at meetings with the county requiring developers to have a letter of credit for the project.
Riat said REES Development purchased the property along Excel Rd. in 2004, with the understanding that the roadway, as well as the intersection with U.S. Highway 24, would be upgraded “in short order.”
“The one and only reason we spent the money on engineering, platted the land next to Hwy. 24 and moved the drainage ditch…was because we were under the strong impression that the county was going to upgrade that intersection in short order,” Riat said.
“It has never happened. Since that time we have been dead in the water, and have lost more than one prospective buyer because of the development being stalled.
“In conclusion and prejudice aside, I believe the upgrading of Excel Rd. and the extension and oversizing of the sewer line to be good for everyone involved –– us, the county and all the people who will ultimately use those services, so maybe it’s time to put all the cards on the table and get on with it,” Riat said.