With the issue of the Butler County landfill being placed on a temporary hold, the Butler County Commission shifted its attention to another issue – Mid Kansas Co-Op's public hearing for the request of $6,000,000 in Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRB) for the construction of a new grain elevator at Highway 254 and Butler Road.
The co-op is currently located at a smaller facility in the middle of Benton. With the move toward a more rural setting, Commissioner Ed Myers again voiced his concern about costly road maintenance and improvements large farming trucks would require.
"My main concern has been that I feel there is a high liklihood and perhaps a near certainty that over the initial 10 years it would incur a heavy truck traffic and that coupled with 254 and Butler Road being pretty well used," said Myers. "Butler Road is maintained by the county and there is a strong liklihood that some road work might be essential. There should be in place, as one of the conditions, some sort of cost sharing put in place here."
"One of our initial concerns was the potential traffic impact on Butler Road. We also wanted to make sure we had good access to the facility," answered Public Works Director Darryl Lutz. "In terms of the amount of traffic, the co-op's busiest season is wheat harvest. During that time, farmers brought in 550,000 bushels. They’d like to see a growth of 25 percent with their new location. During their peak days, they’d expect 100,000 bushels of incoming grain and harvest period is one to two weeks long. That would mean 200 trucks per day. If spread throughout a 10-hour period, that is one truck load on average of every three minutes if it was evenly distributed throughout the day. Obviously, you’re going to have spikes in that number.”
The heavy traffic on Butler Road currently in that section is southbound at 7:30 a.m. and northbound is at 4:30 p.m. There are 99 vehicles in that peak hour.
“Based on the present volumes of 2,200 vehicles per day, we have efficient gaps in traffic to accommodate those trucks,” Lutz said. “Unless there is a sufficient increase, there are not enough to warrant a turn lane."
The cost of those road improvements and who would be responsible for the cost of those changes then came into question.
"Structurally, all of our roads are in need of some improvement," explained Lutz. "That portion of Butler Road had fairly good structure on it, but it could use some better structure. An additional two inches of asphalt overlay would be slightly over $100,000. I think there are enough factors and things going on out there that would also impact the need for structural improvements. How we would handle that or who would pay for it, I do not currently have a good solutions for that."
Page 2 of 3 - The facility in Benton currently is limited on space and number of employees.
"Our facility in Benton now is basically three bins that hold 300,000 bushels," explained Eric Lane, director of public relations for Mid Kansas Co-op Association. "We are in town and we do have a very dangerous traffic situation there on the main street with trucks entering and exiting the facility. We hope to grow this business and growth has been very good in the agricultural economy. Based upon this, we are looking at a possible additional seven employees over that 10-year period."
Commissioner Peggy Palmer then began to voice her concern over the tax abatement and the loss of tax funds to Benton and the county.
"Currently the co-op is paying $10,400 in taxes at the current site," said David Alfaro, director of Butler County Economic Development.
"We will continue to pay payroll taxes and sales tax on all items sold through the co-op," added Lane.
The question was then raised by Palmer why the co-op did not turn to the City of Benton with their request for the IRBs.
"The city could issue IRBs for this project," explained Sara Steel, a representative from Gilmore and Bell for the co-op. "After the county considers the resolution of intent, the city of Benton has to consent to the issue of bonds because of its proximity to the city. Typically the cities reserve their IRBs for businesses within the city limits."
"I’m very supportive of your expansion, but the tax part is a pretty serious matter," commented Palmer. "Somebody's going to have to pay the bills."
"The tax abatement does make the economic liability of the project less of an issue," explained Lane. "We know what business is there and we know what business we can gain. If we don’t have the tax abatement, we would only break even."
A further discussion of the guarantee of increase in employment to coincide with the ongoing tax abatement ensued.
"The other concern I have is the employment," said Palmer. "That’s what this is all about. Can there be a guarantee that we have more employed by the end of the 10 years?"
"That guarantee comes in the form of the tax abatement, which will require a report every year," said Lane.
"What we intend to do is come back next week with a revised resolution including a maintenance and tax agreement," said Steel.
"I would personally like to see a clawback clause," answered Palmer. "It gives us assurance that this is going to happen and if it doesn’t, this is the consequence."
"I’ll be very interested in reading what comes up," said Myers. "In a matter of roads and infrastructure, this is basic government service: maintaining our bridges and roads. I trust our county public works people know what needs to be done and what the standard practices are. Butler County needs to be in control of our own roads. The co-op needs to understand that they need to shoulder some the cost of their being there."
Page 3 of 3 - In response to the question as to what would happen to the current facility in Benton, Lane explained the current facility would remain open as a back stop for six months to a year. Following that time period, the bins would be dismantled and used elsewhere. Any salvageable equipment would be used in another facility and the office building will be sold.
The commission then tabled the issue to gather more information and directed staff to bring a resolution of intent incorporating the items discussed. That motion carried 5-0.
The commission also:
• Approved the request by steve Place, Power of Attorney for Patricia Place on behalf of Selective Site Consultants, a representative of AT&T, for a conditional use permit to erect a self-supported wireless communications tower. The tower to be constructed will be 250 feet in height and will be located on the north side of Highway 54 near Rosalia.
• Approved a request by Jim Horn for a conditional use permit to erect a wind generator for personal use on his property in the RR rural residential zoning district.
• Approved the acceptance of the right-of-way dedications for the Final Plat of Haney Acres Subdivision.
• Approved the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition Service Local Agency contract for the amount of $156,383 plus any reallocated federal funds that become available, between KDHE and the Butler County Health Department.
• Conducted a work session concerning the Emergency Medical Services' current collection policy and requested a cost analysis concerning the use of more diligent tactics through their collection agency.
• Authorized the Emergency Communications Director to pay the annual payment for the Reverse 911 in the amount of $11,500.
• Approved the Department of Public Works to solicit sealed bids for corrugated metal pipe culverts for the Highway Division.
• Approved the contracts for the culvert letting No. 68 for the construction of seven reinforced concrete box structures throughout Butler County.
• Conducted a work session regarding a current conflicting of dual financial advisors in hopes of consolidation of the positions for future use.
• Heard the testimony of Nancy Bacon of Augusta in regards to the unlawful taking of land for the use of Butler County and the avoidance of public discussion on the matter. That issue was tabled in order to gather more information and was scheduled to appear on the agenda for October 8.