Colorado-based consultants have been hired to bring people together to discuss completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway project.
The Osprey Group, a Denver firm that specializes in working with government entities and nonprofit agencies, was chosen by HNTB, an engineering firm in Kansas City, Mo., for the job. The Kansas Department of Transportation hired HNTB earlier this year to manage the trafficway project.
Scott Russell, an HNTB spokesman, said Osprey's job will be to bring interested parties together to provide input on the unfinished eastern portion of trafficway.
The western 9 miles of the highway is open, but dissent over routing of the eastern third of the road has kept KDOT from building it. The trafficway was designed to connect Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence with the Kansas Turnpike northwest of the city.
Mike Rees, KDOT's chief counsel, said Osprey will help interested parties, including representatives from the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and Haskell Indian Nations University, identify the important issues.
"By bringing these people in, people will be able to identify the issues and build a better rapport than if KDOT was doing it," he said.
Haskell President Karen Swisher initially brought up the idea of forming a group to discuss the trafficway. Last month, Haskell attorney Ronald Manka contacted Rees about forming the group and suggested hiring the Osprey Group to facilitate the discussion.
Osprey was formed last year by John Huyler and Dennis Donald. Huyler has been a full-time facilitator and mediator for 20 years and worked for several years on water issues for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
Prior to forming Osprey, Dennis Donald was a senior facilitator and director of The Keystone Center's Science and Public Policy Program in Keystone, Colo. He also has served as deputy director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
Huyler said he believes there are advantages to hiring an outside group to discuss a local issue.
"Obviously, as people who aren't from this area, we won't bring any biases to the table," he said.
Donald and Huyler said they hope to start talking with the "stakeholders" soon to learn about the issues, and then begin a series of meetings in late July or early August.
Information gathered by the group will be included in documents prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who would issue the 404 permit required for any construction work in the Baker Wetlands, which several proposed SLT routes cross.
For more information about the project, call Russell toll-free at (877) 873-4384.
-- Staff writer Joy Ludwig can be reached at 832-7144.