A proposed compensation package for Haskell includes more money and flexibility than past proposals.
A package put together by state highway officials to gain Haskell Indian Nations University's support for the South Lawrence Trafficway includes a $3.3 million cash payment to the school.
Details of the draft package -- which includes cash and projects totaling about $5 million -- were obtained Friday by the Journal-World.
Haskell is balking at the offer, questioning its validity because the offer hasn't been signed. The school has reaffirmed its opposition to a 31st Street alignment for the partially completed highway meant to loop around the west and south sides of Lawrence.
But a Douglas County consultant said he thought the university last year was ready to sign off on a package $2 million smaller than this latest offer if the state's top highway official had handled it differently.
John Pasley, a former Douglas County employee who now works for HNTB, said a similar proposal was being discussed when part of that package -- a payment of about $1 million -- was pulled from consideration by Kansas Transportation Secretary Dean Carlson.
"I think the million might have worked had we put it in writing iron-clad," Pasley said Friday.
Carlson defended his earlier decision, saying he pulled the money because Haskell wanted to use it for a new science building, something unrelated to the trafficway. The new proposal identifies a payment of about $3.3 million as being for the loss of an access point to 31st street and "damage to cultural and historic resources on the HINU campus." The southern portion of the Haskell campus borders 31st Street.
Carlson attributed the increase to new information uncovered by studies being done of the project.
"Eighteen months ago no one had told us this was significant from a historical standpoint," Carlson said. "It puts us in a different negotiating posture."
According to the proposal, the school has the option to take the entire estimated value of the package, $5 million, in cash to do its own mitigation.
But the bigger offer may not get much of a hearing from Haskell officials until it is signed, Pasley said.
"It isn't ever going to work unless you put these things in a formal, written manner, signed and sealed by the guy that can write the check, be that Secretary Carlson or the Governor," Pasley said.
Carlson said he shared the new list with Haskell not as a basis for negotiation, but as a courtesy to Haskell President Bob Martin.
"I felt in all fairness Martin ought to know what was going on," Carlson said.
He said the list is to become part of the 4(f) statement, a federally mandated study of the impact the trafficway might have on the historic and cultural aspects of Haskell.
The 4(f) ultimately will become part of an overall study of the trafficway and its effect on the surrounding area. That overall study is called the Supplemental Environment Impact Statement (SEIS).
Once the SEIS is complete, it will be up to the federal government to give the permission for building and specifying a preferred route.
"We want to force the federal government to make a decision," Carlson said. "The only way I know to do that is to drive the SEIS."
Though the Haskell regents executive committee was given the proposal at a recent meeting, members didn't discuss it in detail, said Lana Redeye, a committee member from Salamanca, N.Y.
Redeye restated the board's opposition to the 31st Street alignment.
"Nothing has happened yet that would change that position," Redeye said Friday.
-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.