Pottawatomie County commissioners Monday adopted the 2020 budget and settled on a future road project “wish list” to present to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The commission voted 2-1 to adopt a 2020 budget with a total property tax levy of 28.246 mills, a reduction of 1.737 mills from the current levy.

The mill levy reduction represents a property tax savings of about $40 on a house valued at $200,000, according to Heather Gladbach, management assistant of finance.

As he has the past two years, Chairman Travis Altenhofen voted against the budget, citing a $5.225-million dollar fund not tied to specific projects.

“We take our money by force, so I like to be able to tell people what it’s going to be used for,” Altenhofen said.

Commissioners Pat Weixelman and Dee McKee agreed somewhat, but felt the fund was necessary for unforeseen expenses and for having a reserve in the event matching funds are needed for grants.

“I agree, but I think having that slush fund along with a low mill rate is pretty impressive,” Weixelman said, noting that few other Kansas counties can make that claim.

In looking ahead to the 2021 budgeting process, Altenhofen suggested the commission “look more diligently at what projects are coming at us instead of more or less shooting from the hip.”

The commission also approved three proposed road projects to take before the Kansas Department of Transportation during upcoming “local consult” meetings.

Proposed projects selected include improvements to K-99 from Wamego north to Highway 36; making the intersection of Flush Road and U.S. Highway 24 an interchange to enhance safety; and construction of a second Blue River crossing along Junietta Road and Marlatt Ave.

McKee has long been an advocate for the third proposal, even though it has received tepid support from Manhattan and Riley County.

“We cannot sit back, with the citizens I represent, and not continue to bring it forward,” McKee said. “I truly would like to put that bridge on the agenda. Addressing that just speaks to our future.”

In recent surveys, Blue Township residents have expressed not only support for a second Blue River crossing, but the willingness to help pay for it, according to Stephan Metzger, assistant county planner.

County representatives will pitch the projects during regional meetings Aug. 19, at Salina and Aug. 26, at Topeka.

KDOT holds the meetings to give local governments input on formulating funding priorities for T-Works projects over the next 10 years, according to Peter Clark, public works director.

In other business Monday:

• The commission accepted the low bid of 2.68 percent from Community First National Bank to finance the lease-purchase of four pumper trucks and four tanker trucks for Pott County Consolidated Fire District 1.

The $2,087,000 cost for the equipment will be financed over a 10-year period.

The county sent proposals to 12 area financial institutions and received responses from five, according to Gladbach.

• Scott Schwinn, sanitarian, was authorized to gather information regarding bids for a new scale at the county landfill, which will cost an estimated $100,000.

The current scale was installed around 1993, and could fail at any time, Schwinn said.

Revenue at the landfill is up by $99,000 year-to-date due to an increase in the number of haulers using the facility. About $70,000 of that revenue, however, is expended to transfer the additional solid waste to a regional landfill, according to Schwinn.

• Gregg Webster, zoning administrator, reported 22 building permits issued in July at a total cost of $5.796 million.

The figures showed an increase in the number of permits (18) issued during the same period last year with a total cost of $4.138 million.

The dramatic increase in cost over last year was due in part to construction of a $1.65 million attendant care home at the intersection of Flush Road and U.S. Highway 24, Webster said.

• Metzger reviewed the first of the two-part Green Valley Area Neighborhood Plan, developed as an addendum to the county’s comprehensive plan.

The first part of the plan addresses issues such as multi-family housing, commercial business restrictions, a second Blue River crossing, and sidewalks and parks.