Written by Jerry Engler Tuesday, 07 July 2009 13:31
Marion County is joining Dickinson County in asking the Kansas Legislature to reverse giving tax exemption on a sandy oil slurry pipeline to be built through here on the way from Canada to a refinery in Cushing, Okla.
Commission Chairman Dan Holub confirmed Monday at the Marion County Commission meeting that he has asked Rep. Bob Brookens to check into reversing legislation granting Keystone Pipeline property tax exemption “two legislatures ago” for no known reason.
Even Keystone representatives of the Canadian company said at a public meeting they were surprised they were exempted, Holub said.
He said Brookens told him he would be checking with Sen. Jay Emler on the history of the exemption.
Harry Bennett brought in a letter from the Dickinson County Commission, which was published in the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, protesting the exemption to the state. Bennett said the letter estimated Dickinson County would lose $300,000 annually in taxes if the exemption remains.
Holub said Marion County has received a copy of the letter from Dickinson County, and is in the process of writing a letter to the state in support of Dickinson’s position.
Marion County is involved with Dickinson and several other counties in presenting a unified front to Keystone regulating compensation for damages to county roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Bennett said the pipeline originates in the Fort McMurray area of Canada, then goes east before turning south to go through the Dakotas and on. It is subject to international treaty through the U.S. State Department, he said.
Holub said reports that branch pipelines may be built here to refineries in El Dorado and McPherson are untrue because those facilities don’t have the equipment to extract oil from sand.
Bennett said the pipeline size has been increased from an already large 30 inches to 36 inches to increase supply and revenue. He said the pipeline is expected to transport 700,000 to 900,000 barrels of slurry daily.
Holub said money being paid landowners by Keystone to reimburse them for not being able to build over the pipeline probably will be for setbacks at least 50 feet to either side of the line.
Bennett said with the money involved, taxes should easily be paid. He said, “Dickinson County at least wants accountability of why we are giving the store away.”
County lake roads
In other business, after listening to Dan Crumrine, chairman of the Marion County Lake Improvement District, report on why the county should take over maintenance of lake roads, Commissioner Randy Dallke suggested it might be time for the lake to incorporate as a new city.
Dallke said if lake residents decided to incorporate, perhaps the county could continue to maintain Lakeshore Drive, but give responsibility to the new community to do its own back roads.
Holub said state statute requires county roads to be at least 60 feet wide, so many of the lake roads are too narrow for the county to maintain.
Crumrine said the lake was platted by the county attorney and the county engineer in 1940, but the plat was never accepted by the county commissioners.
Dallke said there is no way for the current commissioners to know what the goal was in 1940.
Crumrine called for a meeting with commissioners to help lake residents resolve feelings, and ask for help on roads. He said residents pay “millions” in taxes without road improvements to show for it.
He said residents worked in the 1980s to get grant money for a sewer system so the Environmental Protection Agency wouldn’t close the lake without county help even though county taxes went up.
They are faced with the same scenario again, he said, getting a gant for a water system in the 1990s, and completing a new water tower in 2010 with no financial help from the county.
Every time these improvements are made, Crumrine said, the county benefits with new construction and more taxation, but lake residents get little in return.
Crumrine said he hoped residents can have a meeting with commissioners to consider all options without rancor.
“I don’t go for people threatening or raising their voices,” he said.
The commissioners indicated interest in one public suggestion, in response to considerations last week to change county road names because of weather and vandalism, to keep the same names but abbreviate them to keep them shorter, and less desirable for thieves. For instance, road signs for Mustang might read MST.
Bridge inspections by engineering companies may be going from the $40 per bridge range to as high as $150, he said.
County Clerk Carol Maggard said the capital improvement fund may have around $2 million in it if transfers to it the end of the year are able to be made. That would come close to the $2.5 million estimated for a 4-inch overlay on the Tampa road to Kansas Highway15.
Holub said the Kansas Department of Transportation recognizes that an 8-inch overlay actually is needed on the Tampa route for the traffic it carries, and Brookens has told him some state aid may be offered.