Too many bridges to cross
County to consider bonds to repair aging structures
Wayne White | Managing Editor
LYNDON—Osage County already has an investment it stands to
lose if a railroad is rebuilt on the old rail bed north of Overbrook,
county commissioners were told Monday.
At last week’s commission meeting, commissioners met with
members of the Kanza Rails Trails Conservancy to discuss two aging
bridges in the eastern part of the county on the rail-banked right-of-way
controlled by the trails group.
A concern discussed at that meeting was that if the county took
over ownership of the bridges and repaired or replaced them, that
investment could be jeopardized if the railroad was rebuilt in that
area. Commissioners expressed reluctance to invest in such a project
without assurance the bridges would never be removed.
The rail banking system allows the old railroad rights-of-way to
be developed as hiking and biking trails while they are unused by
the railroad and until the railroad is rebuilt.
Commissioners had previously discussed the condition of the bridges
on 221st Street and 229th Street, both of which cross a small creek
in the conservancy’s right-of-way along the rail-banked Union
Pacific Railroad line. One bridge is on a county road; the other
is on a Junction Township road. A recent inspection indicated the
bridges were deteriorating but not deemed structurally deficient.
Last week, conservancy members said the group did not have funds
available to rebuild the bridges, but offered to cooperate by transferring
ownership or easements to the county.
See County | 10A
Continued from 1A
Monday, commissioners again heard from local rails-to-trails opponent
Jim Foster, Overbrook, who said the county was already in the position
to lose a reconstructed bridge if the railroad was rebuilt. Foster
pointed to a bridge in northern Osage County on Shawnee Heights
Road, over Camp Creek. The bridge is not on railroad right-of-way,
but part of the bridge’s fill is, it was noted, and could
be in the path of a reconstructed railroad.
“Now you know that if the train comes back, the county stands
to lose a multi-million dollar bridge,” Foster said.
Foster said he was seeking access to documentation of any agreement
between the county and the railroad regarding reconstruction of
the bridge. He said he wished to determine if the railroad had relinquished
right-of-way during the project, and if so, the railroad’s
authority to rail bank that section of the line would also have
Commissioners indicated they were unaware of any agreement with
the railroad, but they were willing to investigate.
“We’ll have to have Glen (Tyson, county road and bridge
supervisor) look it up and see if there was an agreement,”
Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall said.
Tyson arrived later at the meeting with blueprints of the Camp Creek
bridge project. He said he knew of no agreement regarding the railroad’s
right-of-way, but the drawings showed an eight-foot walking path
had been included in the bridge plans.
Commissioners also discussed the 221st Street and 229th Street bridges
with Foster, who said the commission had discussed those same bridges
eight years ago, and the minutes of that meeting reflected an identical
conversation as last week’s.
“Eight years ago they were talked about and the same things
were said,” Foster said. “In another eight years they
could fall into the creek.”
“Both of those bridges have passed the engineer’s inspections,”
Foster said the bridges had “actually gotten better by doing
nothing,” because the recent inspections indicated they were
in better condition than they were eight years ago.
Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer said the bridges had been previously
inspected by the state, and not by the county’s engineers.
“We included them in our inspections in the last years to
see what’s wrong with them,” Meyer said.
Commissioners also discussed the bridges with Bob Cook, of Cook,
Flatt & Strobel, the county’s bridge engineers. Answering
the commissioners’ inquiry about the possibility of moving
a creek channel, as suggested by trail conservancy members last
week, Cook said it was an unlikely solution to the problem, because
the state would likely not allow it.
“It’s kind of tough to move a creek,” Cook said.
Cook suggested a solution to the bridge dilemma.
“If the bridge gets bad enough, I’d just close the road,”
But the bridges are not in a bad enough condition to close the road
yet, Cook said.
“They’re not the best bridges in the county, but they’re
not the worst,” he said.
During Monday’s meeting, commissioners also considered Cook’s
report of recently completed inspections of the county’s bridges.
He reported that of 240 bridges inspected in the county, 31 would
qualify for federal aid for bridge improvement projects.
“If we had $6 million, we could spend it awful fast,”
Cook said 22 bridges were identified as needing attention. If federal
funding was used, the county would be responsible for 20 percent
of the costs, he said.
With Kuykendall’s inquiry, it was noted the county is still
paying two 1996 bonds issued for bridges. One bond expires this
year and has $350,000 remaining to be paid; the other expires in
2012 and $170,000 is still owed.
“With the bridges we’ve got in Osage County, we’re
foolish if we don’t continue with bridge bonds,” Meyer
said. “We better pursue that.”
Osage County Commissioner Mike Pruitt suggested that 15 bridges
be selected for repair or replacement through a bridge bond. With
the other commissioners’ agreement, Cook is to develop a list
of suggested bridges to be repaired and the commissioners are to
investigate the possibility of letting voters decide at a future
election if a bond should be issued.
In other business, the commissioners:
o agreed to purchase a McCormick tractor for the road and bridge
department from Sloop Sales and Hook’s Repair in the amount
of $41,773. County counselor Delton Gilliland is to solicit bids
from local banks for lease purchase rates for the equipment.
o hired Amanda Spooner as the daycare surveyor for the health department
at $12 per hour, and accepted the resignation of Nancy Chase as
daycare surveyor. Also hired was Albert Green, who will work part-time
at the recycling center, at $9.92 per hour.
o approved assigning Sam Ralston as a school resource officer at
Santa Fe Trail High School and sending him to training at Louisville,
o approved purchasing a computer for the county clerk’s office
from Manatron for $1,672.
o approved the county clerk applying for a grant through the Help
America Vote Act for 20 voting booths and 10 electronic poll books.
The program provides 90 percent funding to assist counties with
the purchase of voting equipment. Osage County’s application
represents $29,915 in equipment.
o approved contracting Manatron to compile records in the county
appraiser’s office to satisfy an open records request by a
private company. Commissioners approved expending up to $1,250 for
10 hours of service, with the expense to be passed on to the requestor.