Leaders want Corps to pay for dam detour

By Mark Portell

Pottawatomie and Riley counties will ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pay for all or part of potential road detour improvements associated with the closing of K-13 across Tuttle Creek Dam this spring.

A recent assessment of Dyer/Barnes road by officials of the two counties identified nearly $1 million in upgrades to improve safety during the dam closure and to repair the roadway after the dam reopens.

Although the Corps told the counties it didn’t have funds to pay for detour costs, the counties will make the request in an upcoming meeting, which is expected to include a representative of U.S. Senator Jerry Moran.

“Whether they help us out or not, I have no control over that, but to make the request I felt we had to have something in hand,” public porks director Peter Clark told Pott County Commissioners Monday.

Commissioners have made no decision on what, if any, improvements will be made in the event the Corps provides no funding assistance.

The road assessment resulted in an estimated $984,000 in upgrades — $264,000 in “immediate” costs, $100,000 in “near-future” costs and $620,000 in “post-construction” costs.

Dyer/Barnes road runs south from the eastern edge of Tuttle Creek Dam. It’s named Dyer Road in Pott County, but changes to Barnes Road when it crosses into Riley County.

The Corps has announced K-13 over Tuttle Creek Dam will close for 12 to 18 months beginning in March or April while work is done on the dam’s emergency spillway.

While K-16 has been designated the official detour during the project, Clark believes the “realistic” detour will be Dyer/Barnes road. and could more than double the roadway’s traffic count — from 1,500 to 3,300 vehicles daily. The Dyer/Barnes detour into Manhattan would be about 20 miles shorter than the K-16 detour option, Clark said.

In other business Monday:

• The commission approved a petition to form a benefit district to pay for hard-surfacing three interior roads — John Scott Road, Grantham Road and Christi Lane — in subdivisions along Flush Road north of U.S. Highway 24.

Two persons spoke at a public hearing for the petition. Kurt Jones opposed the petition, saying he would be paying for paving in developments he doesn’t live in. Brian Rempe urged the project to move forward, citing approval of about 80 percent of property owners. The petition process has been in the works for about three years and has been modified several times. Commissioners Dee McKee and Stan Hartwich voted for the petition and Commission Pat Weixelman was opposed.

• Register of Deeds Betty Abitz said her office brought in $586,267 in 2016, down slightly from $594,691 in 2015. Abitz said income from the mortgage registration tax was down significantly ($86,489), but was offset by recording fees for increased page counts. The Kansas Legislature last year began phasing out the mortgage registration tax over a three-year period.

• Clark presented for the commission’s review an operational and maintenance manual for county blade operators. The manual was developed from a template used by the Kansas Association of Counties and modified by the Public Works officials and blade operators, Clark said. “There are things that aren’t under their (operators’) control, but we want to them to be accountable for the things that are,” Clark told commissioners.

The commission will discuss the manual at its Jan. 30 meeting.

• The commission approved a contract with Cook, Flatt & Strobel for the biennial inspection of county bridges.

• Clark said he has requested an inspection of a drainage pipe as a possible cause of flooding problems in the Sandy Hook area just southeast of St. Marys.

The 1,000-foot-long, 18-inch clay pipe, installed in 1905, drains 1,800 acres to the north, Clark said.

“The water is draining, but how fast, we don’t know,” Clark said, noting that he wanted to inspect the pipe before initiating other flood-control measures.

• Scott Schwinn, sanitarian and landfill director, said materials brought to the landfill in 2016 exceeded the previous year. The landfill transferred 8,217.39 tons of solid waste in 2016 — 47.39 tons more than 2015. It received 915.11 tons of construction debris — 107.95 tons more than the previous year.

Commissioners also lauded Schwinn for upgrades at the landfill in 2016.

“It looks good up there,” said Weixelman. “You’ve got it looking pretty nice.”

“You’ve done a good job since you took it over,” echoed Hartwich.

• Administrator Robert Reece said Pottawatomie County’s cost share of building a new bridge across the Kansas River east of Belvue would require a levy increase of 3.15 mills for 20 years, assuming the bridge cost $25 million.

The request for the debt service figures was made by a member of a committee formed by the Pott County Economic Development Corporation to study the bridge, he said.

Based on the most recent assessed valuations, Pott County’s share of the cost would be 86.6 percent and Wabaunsee County’s share would be 13.4 percent.

• County Clerk Nancy McCarter swore in newly- elected county officials: Travis Altenhofen, third-district commissioner; Betty Abitz, register of deeds; Sherri Schuck, county attorney; and Greg Riat, sheriff.

• The commission named The Wamego Times as official county newspaper for a threeyear period beginning in 2017. The commission also elected Weixelman as 2017 chairman, McKee as vice-chair, and Altenhofen as member.

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