County looks for sources to pay for Tampa road project

The four miles of 330th Road from Kansas Highway 15 into Tampa?potentially a $2 million project?dominated the conversations of Marion County commissioners Monday during a work session meeting designated for the county roads situation and for budget discussion.

Because they couldn?t see a way for Marion County to come up with that kind of money, their attention also was directed to the possibility of a loan from the Kansas Department of Transpor?tation.

Road and Bridge Director John Summerville said the effort to build a solid base before applying hard surface to the road has turned into a race to put on enough gravel to keep it usable during heavy rains.

After the most recent 5-inch downpour, Summerville said, 500 tons of large base-type gravel was put on one lane just to make it passable for the school bus to get through the mud.

Summerville said the consulting engineering firm of Kirkham-Michael has said the base has to be established and packed first, and that?s what he?s done. Road and bridge crews have put on 1,300 tons of rock and 300 tons of millings, then added more millings on top of that, he said.

County Commission Chair?man Dan Holub said it was discouraging after all of the effort to poke a steel rod down through the mud, ?and there was nothing there.?

Holub said the road presents a unique situation for the county because Tampa is the only city in the county without state highway access except by county road.

Even though small, Tampa represents a large commercial portion of the county with companies, such as Agri-Producers Inc. and Cardie Oil, helping generate $50 to $60 million in trade annually serviced by about 5,000 heavy trucks traveling in and out, Holub said.

He noted that many of the trucks carry potentially hazardous materials such as fuel, anhydrous ammonia, herbicides and others. For public safety, he said, the county needs the road to be adequate for that kind of traffic.

?We cannot just sit here with that kind of truck traffic on a gravel road,? Holub said. ?A chip-and-seal surface would break down right away?it?s out of the question. What it needs is a 6-inch overlay, about 2 million bucks.?

Commissioner Bob Hein said, ?I think the south road (Limestone) into Tampa is OK for now with the gravel. It?s the west one that?s the problem.?

Commission Randy Dallke said a chip-and-seal over three to five years of construction would ?break down faster than it could be built. But a 6-inch overlay would be unprecedented. There?s nothing like it been done by Marion County before.?

County Clerk Carol Maggard confirmed there is $1.6 million in the county?s capital improvement fund with $2.45 million expected by the end of the year.

Summerville said all hard surfacing is higher priced until May 16, when prices may drop if the El Dorado refinery is purchased and reopened. Currently surfacing oil has to come out of Kansas City, he said.

Summerville said these considerations are coming at a time when, because of higher prices and lower income, the county may have to consider turning chip-and-seal roads back to gravel.

He cited the Durham-Lincoln?ville and Nighthawk roads might need a surface added yet this year. Holub said he would hate to see the situation at Tampa go into another winter.

?These guys have been here forever paying taxes, doing business,? he said. ?I think the county owes them a decent road for this business volume.?

Holub said he has been to Topeka and to all sources he could think of to find grant money or other funding for the road. The project failed to get funding under the federal stimulus plan, he said.

Holub looked into transferring the road to the state, but it would be a three- to five-year process for KDOT to consider the idea, he said.

Holub said all of this is happening at a time when the state of Kansas is lowering its budget by deciding not to pay counties and cities what was promised them??budgeting by not paying their bills,? he said.

He said Marion County will lose items not paid by the state in amounts of $5,500 for local alcoholic beverage taxes, $86,375.53 in ?slider machinery payment??designed to help counties adjust from discontinuing taxes on industrial equipment, and $354,254.95 for special highway fund due annually.

At the same time, Holub said, the state continues to give unfunded mandates to counties, and gives more tax exemptions at counties? expense.

Marion County may have to raise property taxes two mills to make up for these losses with the people becoming more irritated.

?Thanks, Topeka,? Hulub said.

The commissioners encouraged citizens to call state legislators to protest: Sen. Jay Emler at 785-227-2887. Sen. Jim Barnett at 620-342-5387, or Rep. J. Robert Brookens at 620-382-3556.

In budgeting, the commissioners considered standardizing the 40-hour work week to eliminate some compensation time and going to a four-day work week to cut utility costs.

Maggard said the preliminary estimate for just the 40-hour week savings annually totalled $84,688.

Hein said he is hearing from Gove County that the people there saved money, and came to like the four-day week.

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