Question helps to clarify pipeline issue

Harry Bennett asked the right question at the right time to clarify that Marion County and the state of Kansas are possibly going to get a lot of tax money over a lifetime from the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline Project that is poised to cross Marion County.

Bennett, who lives southwest of Marion, was at the Marion County Commission meeting Monday to ask a few questions of the Keystone representatives in attendance.

Bennett asked Jim Prescott, public consultation representative for Keystone, how his company could accept a property tax exemption on the pipeline from the State of Kansas when people such as Bennett must pay taxes.

Bennett noted that the Canadian company apparently is taking advantage of its wealth to gain an exemption when every other immigrant who ever came to Marion County was willing to pay taxes for the welcome of a new country with its services such as law enforcement.

Bennett noted that estimates of the annual property tax Keystone should be paying on the line run $1.9 million in Marion County alone.

In answer to the continued line of questioning from Bennett, Prescott said the pipeline being installed has a 100-year-plus lifetime, and the Kansas exemption is only for 10 years. He said the life of the line could be much longer into the unforseeable future because there are 50- to 60-year-old pipelines in the region that don?t need replacement, and ?they were put together with older, poorer technician.?

So, Prescott said, the line will have years of taxation after the exemption period.

?But you had to cross Kansas anyway to get to the refinery in Cushing (Okla.)?? Bennett probed.

?Actually, no,? Presscott replied. He said the original plan for coming out of Canada to Cushing had the pipeline going through North Dakota and South Dakota, then over to Iowa without touching Nebraska, to Illinois and back through Missouri.

The Kansas Legislature?s plan was an inducement to come through Kansas, he said. Prescott said that inducement will begin paying off for Marion County with Keystone personnel soon buying goods and services here as they pass through.

Tree clearing crews will begin coming through in January, he said, and the next leg of laying line will begin in May going from the pipeyard to be located near Pilsen, and then heading south to Butler County.

The commissioners still weren?t happy that the Kansas Legislature didn?t consult counties for the exemption, and they still said they will follow an effort led by Dickinson County to get the exemption overturned.

They directed County Clerk Carol Maggard to set a public meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 with legislators who represent Marion County there to explain what can be done.

Commission Chairman Dan Holub said the county would require that Keystone work directly with Kirkham-Michael, the county?s consulting engineering firm, on road and bridge crossings and routes. He said the county would prefer that Keystone pay Kirkham-Michael directly, although the Keystone representatives said payment may need to be to the county for transfer to Kirkham-Michael.

Holub said, ?We?re not trying to pick a fight, but we don?t want to see the people of the county paying for anything that won?t benefit them at all. I wouldn?t be comfortable involving tax dollars anywhere on this. I want to make sure that Keystone pays it all.?

Commissioner Bob Hein said it would work for Keystone to post a bond.

John Summerville, acting road and bridge director, said Keystone had begun filling out the wrong road crossing permits, and they needed to be filling out the correct ones.

The commissioners said Keystone will also need to have paperwork approved by County Attorney Susan Robson who will be consulting with Keystone?s attorney in Kansas City.

Prescott said he respected Bennett?s right, or that of any other citizen, to seek answers from Keystone.

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