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Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

Counties OK riverbank project

August 23, 2001

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Douglas and Leavenworth County officials Wednesday agreed to endorse a $2 million project to stabilize the banks of the Kansas River near Eudora.

Douglas County commissioners approved paying $600,000 for their share of the project, which calls for building four dikes out from the north side of the riverbank, just west of the Kansas River bridge at Eudora.

Leavenworth County commissioners agreed in principal to pay $400,000 for their share.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would contribute the remaining $1 million if the project is approved at the national level.

A few years ago, the counties approached the corps about an immediate danger of the river to a major road, Leavenworth County Road 1, and the bridge. The north riverbank has been slowly eroding away through the years.

Leavenworth County commissioners will meet today to take formal action on their allocation.

"I hate to add that burden to our taxpayers, but we need to do it," said Leavenworth County Commission Chairman Don Navinsky.

Leavenworth County Commissioner Joe Daniels Jr. said the county originally had hoped for a 70/30 split with Douglas County a figure based on the counties' assessed property valuations, which is similar to the counties' maintenance agreement on the bridge. He said the county's budget has been hit hard by flooding in June and decreased revenues, which already has brought a property tax increase for the 2002 budget.

"We just didn't have it in the budget and we made it known to them, and they met us in the middle," he said.

Daniels said Leavenworth County budgeted $150,000 in its 2001 capital improvement plan and $250,000 in 2002. Douglas County has allocated $300,000 for the project and may issue temporary bonds to fund the remaining portion of its costs.

Douglas County Commissioner Charles Jones said the project was needed because it would cost more to replace the $25 million-plus bridge if it were claimed by the river.

"One bad rain next year could knock that bridge out," he said. "We don't know, but it could happen."

Both counties must submit a letter of commitment to the corps by Aug. 31.

Once the letters are received, the request will be forwarded to the district's division headquarters in Portland, Ore., said Lamar McKissack, the corps project manager in the Kansas City, Mo., district. The request also will be reviewed by the corps national office. If those offices approve federal funding for the project, construction could start late this year.

McKissack said the counties have a good chance to receive the money if there is strong local support.

"We do think there's a need for this project," he said. "We believe it would benefit the local citizens in the area and protect the bridge in the area."

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