County dickering with KDOT on road reimbursement

Marion County Commission Chairman Bob Hein asked Joe Palic of the Kansas Department of Transportation Monday to come back with an offer of $400,000 or more instead of the $326,000 he did offer for compensation on road wear to the county during reconstruction of U.S. Highway 77.

The county was still asking $435,000, much of which would go to resurfacing Sunflower Road with a 1.5-inch overlay, but Hein, glancing at the other two commissioners at his sides, said, “I think we have a consensus here that we would settle for $400,000.

“At least that gives you something to take back to see what you can do.”

Palic had explained that he couldn’t make an offer to the county without approval by his supervisors. He said KDOT genuinely desires to make “fair” settlement with the county, with its only request being that money compensated be used only for Sunflower or other county expenses connected with the 77 reconstruction.

He said KDOT observations showed most traffic departing from official detour routes to use county roads was traveling from 110th Road north on Sunflower. This would account for about 75 percent of its length, hence a 75-percent offer for its resurfacing.

The original county request to KDOT for compensation last year was for $525,000, which included additional amounts of $50,000 for added law enforcement and $35,000 road patching.

Mike Olson of the Ellsworth firm of Kirkham Michael, who acts as county engineer on a consulting basis, said the county could accept as part of the compensation 25,000 tons in asphalt and concrete millings it has received for use in patching cold mix.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the county could be receiving more road damage from a contractor’s trucks heavily loaded with concrete for disposal from the highway project.

Dallke said, “They are running all over our roads, and farmers are calling me, upset.” He said the farmers are afraid the roads will be torn up before wheat harvest carrying loads in excess of the overweight loads of grain they might be stopped, and fined for.

Palic said KDOT has no authority to tell the contractor where to go with the concrete, only a contractual arrangement that the concrete must be disposed of.

Palic and the commissioners had heard rumors that some of the concrete might be going to Hutchinson to shore up collapsing salt mines.

The commissioners said there couldn’t be local constrictions on the concrete trucks when they have local destinations such as hauling the concrete to farmers for use as pond rip rap.

Olson said, “It is a good start that KDOT is willing to work with us. Not many years ago, they would have said that they have an official detour, and left us to deal with our roads. Now we can protect our investment.”

Olson and Palic agreed that some deterioration from heavier traffic is showing on 110th and 140th, but not to a severe degree.

Dallke said the road to the cemetery at Florence has been damaged, and the county will blade patch it before Memorial Day.

Olson said a side benefit to the county might be that with so many asphalt plants in the area during reconstruction, the county might be able to obtain some more favorable asphalt pricing.

Commissioner Dan Holub asked Acting Road and Bridge Supervisor Jim Herzet if because of high fuel prices, the county might want to consider mowing less often along blacktops this summer.

Herzet said part-time help already has been hired to do mowing, and that normally cutting grass starts over again after the first cutting is finished.

Dallke suggested that instead of cutting back on mowing, the commissioners and Herzet consider running road graders less in hot, dry weather to save fuel.

Herzet noted that Krause Welding of Hillsboro has been the lone bidder on county generic steel bridges in the past five years in the $37,000 to $40,000 range with the county providing materials.

He suggested that putting Krause on a contractual basis to do all such bridges might save the county advertising money while enabling Krause to move from one job to another more quickly.

Hein, County Clerk Carol Maggard and Olson all agreed that the issue might be state statutes requiring competitive bidding.

Olson suggested the county check to see if the bridges could be packaged for bids on three locations at a time, and still meet statutory obligations.

Hein said Krause has done a good job on bridges, and saved the county money in the past.

Maggard and the commissioners discussed which publications to use for advertising positions for road and bridge supervisor and county economic coordinator.

Maggard reported total county cash on hand according to the county treasurer at $6,872,690.54 April 30. Largest fund balances were in the county general at $1,350,074.37 and the road and bridge at $976,656.65.

There were $73,473.50 reported in motor vehicle fund expenditures.

David Brazil, planning and zoning, environmental health and transfer station director, said the new trash compactor at the transfer station helped keep truck loads of solid waste up to an average 19.41 tons during city clean-up weeks in April when trash normally is bulkier.

He said the compactor might enable the station to average at 20 tons a load for the year compared to former averages of 18 to 18.5 tons. He explained that this is significant over time because heavier loads cut the number of transports to the landfill at Perry necessary when each trip costs $324.

Dallke asked Brazil to explain how planning and zoning regulations had been established for wind turbine farms for electrical generation.

Brazil said several other sets of regulations and codes for other areas had been examined to determine rules such as setbacks from other properties. The Planning and Zoning Commission also visited the wind farm at Montezuma, he said.

Brazil said the group was impressed by how quickly the turbines could be installed using a drill developed for missile installation, how little space turbine ground footings took with wheat growing within 15 feet of the base, and how quietly they run with the sound of the wind louder than the turbine.

Brazil said setback rules are concerned with a tendency of the turbines to “throw ice” during ice storms.

He said wind turbine concrete for footings can set far enough below the surface to allow coverage with top soil to return to farming if the turbines are removed.

The commissioners met in executive session with Brazil for personnel for 10 minutes with no announced decision.

They met in executive session with Noreen Weems, elderly director, for 10 minutes for personnel, and then voted 2-1, Dallke against, to allow 17 years of part-time work by Lanell Hett and 5 years of full-time work count as 15 years for vacation time accumulation.

They met with County Attorney Susan Robson in executive session for 10 minutes for attorney/client business.

They met in executive session twice more, 10 minutes with Bill Smithhart, noxious weed and household hazardous waste director, and 15 minutes with Dianna Carter, county appraiser, both for personnel.

Carter received approval to proceed with purchase for $699 of a laser measurer for heights of buildings.

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