Butler County Commissioners met with a representative from Mid Kansas Co-Op about the pending roadway repair agreement

Following several months of debate, the Butler County Commissioners met with a representative from Mid Kansas Co-Op about the pending roadway repair agreement stipulated in an IRB late last year.

"There are three things MKC is proposing in the new agreement they sent to us," said Public Works Director Darryl Lutz. "One proposal includes a widening of both lanes of Butler Road so that a turn lane may be added. This proposal would leave the speed limit at 55 miles per hour as it is currently and would create a 12-foot-wide turn lane in the center of the road. This increase of six feet on both sides of the road as well as the addition of tapering would allow for enough space for the speed limit to remain at 55 mph."

Lutz went on to explain the increase of both sides of the road, while creating the most convenient addition of space on the highway, would create a need for culvert extensions. The lanes would fit in the current space, but the shoulders and drainage would not. The addition of the culverts, shoulders and tapering would also require an additional 10 feet of required right of way acquisition on both sides. The Co-Op agreed to give the county the right of way rights without any further stipulation given the proposal was employed, but three additional property owners would have to be contacted.

"The second option would be to place the entire widening on the west side of the road," said Lutz. "This would require an extension of the culvert, but only on one side of the road. We would also have to relocate two driveways on the right of way and acquire an additional 15 feet of right of way."

"Why would they propose the extension of the road on the west side instead of the direction where we would not have to seek a right of way?" questioned Commissioner Jeff Masterson.

"I think they proposed this option because the current grade on their property would impede any additional space," explained Lutz. "Based on the work they've already done on their site, giving up the amount of space required would interfere with their drainage and grading. This option also places everything on the side of the railroad bridge, which is not ideal. On the west side of the road, there is currently a pillar which would sit right next to a lane of traffic and I believe it would not be a good placement.

"The final option is to place a passing lane on just one side of the road. I don't recommend this option either – for both safety and cost reasons. Our top option would be the first option with a widening on both lanes. It does not prevent us in the future from later lessoning the speed limit but it would allow us in the maximum storage for the larger trucks."

The three proposals presented by MKC included a set of estimated cost figures for the second roadway option.

"It is good to get a cost estimate for the project, but we don't have a proposal for this first proposal, which is the one that Darryl recommends," commented Commissioner Peggy Palmer.

"The quantities are going to be relatively the same, but your cost might be slightly higher with a different proposal," explained Lutz. "The length of the project is shorter by about 100 feet than it would be if you would go to the first option, so there would be a cost difference. The first option will require more funds. The second option is based on lowering the speed limit because it will not require as much area for the deceleration in the turning lane. I'm not in favor of going down to a 45 mph. It's an option, but I'm not going to argue the matter. It shortens the length of the project and eliminates having to do anything to the structure on the drainage side, but with the traffic flow in that area, I would not recommend changing it at the current time."

"I'm going to be reluctant to go down to 45 for phase one, but if there is a significant traffic change, then I would be able to entertain it," commented Commissioner Dan Woydziak. "I really don't see the need at this point in time."

"The speed limits can always be lowered later if we feel there is a need," added Commissioner Mike Wheeler.

The agreement and some of the altered terms and stipulations in that agreement caused some concern for the commission.

"In terms of the agreement, this draft came in Friday and basically what is proposed is that they would grant the additional right of way as requested," began Lutz. "They also proposed they go ahead and build the turn lane up front. The key items of discussion will be the cost split of the 80-20 percent and their proposing the county pay 80 percent of the overlay for only a half mile of road and they go further to propose their max out of pocket will be $200,000."

Having met with a representative for MKC to further discuss the matter several weeks ago, Commissioner Ed Myers explained his thoughts on the issue along with some figures.

"Mr. Lang, a representative of Mid Kansas Co-Op and I enjoyed a very nice conversation," explained Myers. "We met a week and a half ago at the existing Benton facility and he gave me a tour of the new facility. We drove around and offered various details, comments, and information. It was very formative and positive and I appreciated it very much."

Myers went on to explain the current Benton facility has a storage of 160,000 bushels. It currently moves 1.7 million bushels per year. The current movement of bushels is seven times the amount of the storage maximum amount for the facility. The movement of the bushels in the facility is by truck. An average of 2,4000 trucks a year visit the facility and those same trucks average in weight of about 80,000 pounds. When it comes to the new facility, a traffic study recently completed in October of 2013 revealed an average of 2,075 vehicles per day travel that area of Butler Road. Currently only 10 large trucks per day travel that stretch of road.

"The new facility will have a 900,000 bushel capacity of storage," explained Myers. "The estimated throughput of that facility will be 3.6 million bushels annually. When I questioned the movement of the grain when I spoke with Mr. Lang, he indicated that 99.9 percent of the movement of those bushels will be by truck at least for the first several years due to the required equipment and output of a railroad line. With those figures, the facility will average 8,000 of those 80,000 pound trucks per year. Scientifically speaking, each 80,000 pound truck is equal to about 3,000 passenger cars impact wise to the surface and condition of the road. This equals to a 200 percent increase in structural impact on the road in the first year. Later on the company has indicated plans to increase the capacity of this new facility by at least 60 percent. This expansion of the bins and the pad storage will also increase the traffic with that facility. We are going to see unprecedented levels of traffic loading on that one mile stretch of Butler Road."

With these new figures, the commissioners began to voice their opinions on the projected figures outlined in the road agreement.

"This commission has given MKC the best possible incentive to build this new facility," continued Myers. "They were given IRBs and a 10-year tax abatement. I believe we have the good sense and the wisdom to ask MKC to aid in the impacting on the road. It makes the most sense to do this work in the beginning. I like that proactive approach however I do feel that because of the significant impact on Butler Road that it's reasonable to ask MKC to participate. I also feel very comfortable with MKC asking for a cap to the project.

"I can understand they don't want to write a blank check but I am not satisfied at this point at setting the cap at $200,000. It understates the impact that we need to address and I think that the 20-80 cost sharing for the overlay doesn't truly fairly address the full impact that this facility will occasion for Butler Road," he continued. "I think the draft contract is moving in the right direction but I don't feel yet that it fairly allocates what we're going to see. With what we've seen on paper so far, we don't see an overlay for the whole mile, from 254 to 30th. I'm feeling that the overlay needs to be for the full mile. I feel that the recommendations should fall to our county staff and whatever is done here should meet the specs as far as materials from the county."

"Once that overlay is done and those changes are made, then we will take responsibility for that road," added Palmer. "The county will have to buy the right of ways because they are not currently included in the cost of this project."

"I think it's important that a cap be set that we feel is adequate to address the issues," added Myers. "None of this would be an issue at all if it weren't for this large tax abatement."

"If they did not ask for IRBs or tax abatements, the county would be receiving roughly $66,000 in taxes," added Woydziak. "Those are the funds that we're going to pull in order to complete road maintenance."

The overall benefit to the county for the movement to the new facility, including the number of jobs that facility would create, was called into question.

"When you're allowing this kind of abatement, the main focus is how many jobs it's going to produce," commented Palmer. "We've heard anywhere from two to seven new positions in addition to the three that are already at the Benton facility. Will they all be minimum wage? Because jobs are important."

"We're not sure of the exact details of the new employment that will be housed at this facility," said Director of Economic Development David Alfaro. "But there will be at least one management position."

"Housed in the office will be the day labor and the scale runners as well as a manager to run the operations," added Bret Christianson, legal counsel for MKC. "The estimate between two to seven is safe at this point, but I do not have the specific salary information at this time."

"We do have a tracking mechanism to qualify for the year's exemption," explained Alfaro. "There is a set of guidelines that they have to meet for in order to qualify for the abatement. This will go on for 10 years."

The commission began to move toward the overall road agreement and the stipulations it outlined.

"I think it's great to have this facility," said Myers. "It's very nice and it's going to be a state-of-the-art facility. Earlier in the discussions several weeks ago, I expressed the concern of trucks spilling out on Butler Road during peak seasons. There is plenty of off street road to absorb any truck back log during peak seasons. We have a road impact type of arrangement with a facility is not unprecedented in Butler County. We have a similar type of thing with Martin Marietta Quarry and Koogler Ranch Quarry. We also did have recently a new Tractor Supply. We specified what they had to do and they had to cover the cost of building the 500 feet of a complete road. In light of the generous arrangement that we're giving."

"This all boils down to the cap," added Masterson. "The max out of pocket is in dispute here. It's all they're concerned about is that number."

"We either need to come to agreement or the project is going to be held on hold," added County Administrator Will Johnson.

"We need to make sure we include in the cost of right of way, drainage structures, etc. in this agreement," added Lutz.

"We need to take something back to MKC letting them know what this board agrees to," commented Johnson. "If nothing else, we can at least give them that."

"When we approved the IRB, we agreed with the pavement of the full mile at 80-20," said Lutz.

"Why don't we come back with an agreement that includes a cost to MKC a cap of $300,000 and that includes doing this work up front and it'll be good until the end of the abatement," suggested Woydziak. "Whatever they don't use for the lane addition will be set aside for an overlay cost."

"We need to be specific that the right of way acquisition costs are included in the 80-20 bundle," said Johnson. "I'm not sure whether the engineering breakout is really specified here, but I know MKC cannot take the lead in right of way purchase."

"It's obvious that the first option is going to cost more and that won't even include the right of way," commented Palmer. "I think $400,000 is the appropriate figure for the cap."

"I think 400 is going to be pretty close to your total project costs," said Lutz.

"Again, it's a cap, it's not saying we'll spend it," said Myers.

"I think it needs to be 80-20 up to probably 300," commented Masterson. "In my mind that is fairer."

"We can put our best estimate on the thing, but to protect the county's interests, we need to make sure that cap is going to cover us," added Myers.

"I'm in favor of $400,000 for the cap," said Palmer. "If they don't use it, that's fine."

"I think a $400,000 cap is a little high for this project," said Masterson.

Following a consensus of stipulations and changes for the agreement, the issue was tabled and the agreement was sent back to Mid Kansas Co-Op for review.

Kari Adams can be reached at kadams@butlercountytimesgazette.com.