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Larger MPO wins 3-2

By Burk Krohe

City commissioners approved a map, a budget option and the appointment of a commissioner to serve on an interim policy group related to a new federally mandated metropolitan planning organization Tuesday.

Manhattan recently qualified as an urbanized area due to the most recent census data and must create the organization in order to continue receiving federal transportation funding. It will be overseen by a policy board made up of local officials and a Kansas Department of Transportation official.

Commissioners selected a broader map, known as map 4a, on a split vote. Commissioners Wynn Butler and John Matta continued to advocate for a smaller map, while Mayor Loren Pepperd and Commissioner Wynn Butler continued their support for the broader map. Commissioner Rich Jankovich acted as the swing vote ultimately settling on the broader map after discussions about his concerns with city staff. There was support for the larger map from other regional officials at the meeting, but there was also opposition from several citizens.

The map is required to include the city limits of Manhattan and its projected growth areas. Option 4a also includes growth areas in Riley County and Pottawatomie County as well as Ogden, Junction City, areas of Geary County and a portion of Fort Riley. The map will drive the makeup of the policy board as well as the budget.

Lauren Palmer, assistant city manager, presented commissioners with several of the budget options, which were based on each entity’s relative population. The budget will include a roughly $166,000 federal grant in the first year to implement the organization and fund a staff member, but the grant requires a minimum 20 percent local match. Palmer noted city staff estimated it would take more than the minimum match to properly fund the organization.

“There are four budget scenarios that correspond to map 4a,” Palmer said. “Budgets one and two include the residential population on Fort Riley and assign that population to the local match allotments of both Geary and Riley County. Budget two assumes Ogden’s portion will be absorbed by Riley County.”

Commissioners approved budget two, noting budgets three and four remove Fort Riley’s population from the funding formula, thereby reducing the proportional shares of Geary County and Riley County, while increasing the proportional shares for the other jurisdictions. Under that budget, the city estimates paying $20,762 in 2013 and $227,534 over a five-year period.

Butler said he disagreed with approving the broader map and was skeptical of the budget numbers presented. He said the numbers seemed off and believes a larger map will only result in increased overheard costs.

“Headquarters are bureaucracies; they grow, they consume money and they consume people,” Butler said.

Sherow said that’s why the board is made up of elected officials.

“If they don’t want to spend any more money than what it absolutely takes to keep this going, I don’t think they’re going to spend frivolously to create a larger bureaucracy,” Sherow said.

But in Butler’s opinion the map represents the first domino falling.

“The map is going to drive the size of the policy board, and the policy board is ultimately going to determine how to spend our money, which is why I’m not going to vote for a larger map,” he said.

Butler and Matta would have preferred to start as small as possible and then bring in other entities as necessary. They said in that event, solid numbers and data would be available. While their positions have always been clear, Jankovich seemed to be on the fence previously.

Jankovich talked with city staff and was informed that the organization could move to a smaller map if the policy board is unable to come to a consensus on projects. He was also reassured that, with either map, the city doesn’t restrict its access or ability to receive funds. He agreed with Butler that “maybe the numbers aren’t as good as they could be,” but said spending can be controlled.

“The planning would be done through an RFP (request for proposals) with our planner, so the MPO policy board is going to know on the front end before any contract is let what that’s going to be and what the cost of that planning is going to be,” Jankovich said.

Gary Olds, a local resident, said most people haven’t been educated on the issue. Ron Fehr, city manager, explained that

KDOT has been developing a set of maps across the state for each community that is less than 50,000 people. He said the functional classification maps identify arterials, which are usually four-lane road ways and collectors, which are roadways that feed arterials.

“They along with the feds have said ‘when you reach 50,000, we’re tired of doing it for you, we’re no longer going to make that map for you, we’re going to make you make that map and we’re going to give you a little bit of planning money to help you with that but you’re going to have to match it,’” Fehr said.

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