Archive for Saturday, July 1, 2006

Counties disagree on bridge solution

July 1, 2006


It's an open-or-shut case, but it may not be that simple to resolve.

Douglas County commissioners have voted to shut down the Kansas River bridge at Lecompton for planned repairs in 2007.

But a majority of Jefferson County commissioners, having heard the clamor from constituents, apparently want to keep a lane open during the rebuilding project.

The bridge spans the two counties, so it remains uncertain how the difference will be worked out.

Douglas County has agreed to foot the lion's share of the reconstruction expense. Some think that assures Douglas County will get its way. But Jefferson County officials aren't so certain financial might will make right.

"If this was stockholders, and we've got 11 percent of the vote and they have 80, then I guess they win," Jefferson County Commissioner Lynn Luck said. But "I'll leave that up to others to decide. I will vote to keep it open."

Jefferson County commissioners, unlike their Douglas County counterparts, have not formally voted on the bridge issue. But all indications are that they will vote to keep the bridge open when they meet Monday.

At least two of the three Jefferson County commissioners - David Christy and Luck - say they want the bridge to remain open. Commissioner Francis Grollmes said he didn't think he was supposed to say how he would vote in advance of the Monday meeting.

"It's interesting how we all sit there and listen to the same information and then we come up with different ways of doing it," Luck said, referring to the Wednesday night meeting when Douglas County commissioners voted for closing the bridge.

About 60 residents from the Lecompton and Perry areas attended Wednesday's meeting. Several spoke about the hardships they would face if the bridge was closed for four months during repairs. Those hardships included effects on business, social activity and safety.

Douglas County commissioners Bob Johnson and Charles Jones voted to close the bridge; Jere McElhaney, who represents the Lecompton area, voted to keep it open. Johnson and Jones said they thought a year's time to plan for the closing would help resolve some residents' concerns.

They also noted that even if the bridge is kept open to one lane, there still would be 50 to 60 days when the bridge must be closed for the pouring of concrete and other work. Those closings would come with short notice and could lead to safety problems and hardships of their own, they said.

If the two commissions disagree, they will probably have to continue meeting to discuss the issues, all parties said. The commissions have a documented agreement that states the cost of the bridge will be paid on a formula based on each county's respective total property valuation. That means Douglas County would pay an estimated 89 percent and Jefferson County 11 percent.

But the document also said the cost is to be determined in the future, said Steve Montgomery, the Jefferson County counselor. And if the counties are at loggerheads on the open-or-shut issue, which has direct bearing on the project's cost, then the cost-sharing plan also could be scotched.

"I would think that if the parties can't agree on a price, then we probably don't have an agreement," Montgomery said. "That's the real kicker."

Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the two counties would have to talk out their differences.

"They have been a very good county to work with and they have kind of acknowledged that we are kind of the lead county based on the 89 percent," Weinaug said.

If the bridge is closed, the project will take 140 days to complete at a cost of more than $3.3 million. If one lane is left open, the project will take 320 days at a cost of more than $4.07 million.

Jefferson County commissioners will meet to vote on the question at 9 a.m. Monday in the courthouse at Oskaloosa.


pundit 11 years, 11 months ago

I propose that Jeff County pay 11 percent PLUS the extra $700 K and everyone will be happy.


Rhoen 11 years, 11 months ago

<<< Douglas County has agreed to foot the lion's share of the reconstruction expense. Some think that assures Douglas County will get its way. But Jefferson County officials aren't so certain financial might will make right ... >>>

It's likely that financial might may not make "right" but it will probably eventually end up getting its way.

formerfarmer 11 years, 11 months ago

I agree with pundit, Let Jeff co come up with the additional funds. They closed the Eudora bridge to save money when it was rebuilt.

Jeff Goodrick 11 years, 11 months ago

Jeff co only has 10% of the population of Douglas co and can't pay for 50% of the cost of the bridge. Douglas co 100,000 people, Jeff co 12,000 people. does that sound fair. The bridge handles 5,000 cars a day. The lack of bussiness would close the hardware store, the automotive shops, the thrifway and Caseys, Bishops and the pub. just so Douglas co can save $1 per person spread over 5 years. Please leave the bridge open, even if it's open a couple days a week, we could maybe make it.


wishiwasabob 11 years, 11 months ago

What about the school issue? Don't many Lecompton children attend school at the highschool in Perry? How costly would that be for the school district to bus the kids from Lecompton to Perry if that bridge is closed? Jefferson County's alternative highschool is also located in Lecompton, and I know that kids are bused there from Oskaloosa, Winchester, and other areas. Think of the strain the closing of that bridge would put on the school districts. I realize that most of the work would probably be done during the summer, but it would still cut into the school year at some point. Has this issue been raised?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 11 months ago

build a new one along side of the old one then tear the old one down. no risk during cunstruction to workers or driver.

nancy1234 11 years, 11 months ago


Rhoen 11 years, 11 months ago

mommaeffortx2 - That would be too sensible.

This issue does not seem to involve consideration of the needs of children and their parents who are bussed across the route Nancy describes or the (survival) needs of Lecompton County businesses.

It would be great if Douglas County politicians could begin thinking in terms of what would benefit the community as a whole and stop putting so much effort toward fulfilling the narrow-minded and self-centered vision of their cronies.

toothfairy 11 years, 11 months ago

My concern is for the students that attend the Perry-Lecompton High School and drive from the south side of the bridge to the north side. These students will have to drive either on 40 HWY-west which is known for deadly accidents or they can choose to drive into Lawrence and the take their chance on 24 HWY-west which is also deadly. Is the life of even one person worth closing this bridge? Another thing, if the bridge is closed to save over $1mil will the residents who will need to drive around to Topeka or Lawrence on a daily basis be reimbursed for the cost of gasoline that will be incurred? Think about the cost of that collectively when some of these citizens and students have to make the trip twice and sometimes 3 times a day.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

" Don't many Lecompton children attend school at the highschool in Perry? How costly would that be for the school district to bus the kids from Lecompton to Perry if that bridge is closed?"

USD 497 will be delighted to accomodate them, and the additional state aid they bring along.

SpeedRacer 11 years, 11 months ago

It seems to me that DG and JF counties need to be lobbying for ways to connect the SLT to US-24 around Williamstown. Besides the economic boon to the area, it would certainly improve access for the burgeoning western part of DG county to the north side. From a standpoint of emergency and disaster relief, I can't help but be surprised at the limited number of river crossings.

lecomptoncitizen 11 years, 11 months ago

The decision to close the bridge seems to have been made with either a total disregard of the human costs of the bridge closing or simply a deep lack of understanding. I challenge Charles Jones and Bob Johnson to come out for a day and have us show them why we are so terribly concerned about the impact of this decision.

It has been suggested that the quality of the bridge will not be as good if it is not closed entirely. The engineering report completed for the Douglas County Commission states that there are disadvantages and advantages to both closing the bridge and leaving one lane open and that the end product (the bridge) will be about the same in either case. Many of us question why we are not significantly improving the bridge by widening it for all of this trouble.

It has been stated that less school days will be lost if the bridge is closed but those of us who live out here understand that youth activities don't just stop when the school year is over. We have summer school, high school student summer jobs, baseball and softball (we are in leagues with communities on the north side of the river), weight training for sports, summer sports camps, school library hours, Bible School, etc. that our children participate in. Our children do not have city swimming pools or summer park activities that are available in Lawrence. After school is out children and youth still need to get to the north side of the river many times a week.

I don't believe that crossing the bridge at a reduced speed with stoplights at each end throughout the year will be more dangerous than traveling Highway 40, I-70, or all of the way from West to North Lawrence during rush hour for more than 33 miles each way. Think about your inexperienced teenage driver, probably with a carload of kids traveling these roads. Parents who must get to jobs in Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City will not be able to transport them.

Outside of the human costs there will also be negative financial consequences. We are looking at losing businesses on both sides of the river if the bridge is closed. Many families see no alternative but to enroll their children in other school districts. Estimates are the district may lose between 100-200 students. The loss of state support will be significant and difficult for a total student body of only about 1200. So, there will clearly be no funds saved by closing the bridge, it will only be shifted to individual family budgets, our school district and the small businesses in our area.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

If Douglas County goes through with the bridge closing, do the citizens of Perry and Lecompton have the option of going to court to get it stopped?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 11 months ago

but I like commen sense sometimes it is just so easy. and no one loses.

classclown 11 years, 11 months ago

Posted by Godot (anonymous) on July 1, 2006 at 1:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If Douglas County goes through with the bridge closing, do the citizens of Perry and Lecompton have the option of going to court to get it stopped?


That would open the floodgates wouldn't it. Then the thing would never get done. One lawsuit will follow another.

Next thing you know it will be twenty years later and there will be people on these boards screaming to just get it done while others scream about their insensitivities to the environment along with the speeches for the need for compassion for all the frogs and salamanders out there along with any bodies that supposedly are buried under the bridge...

That's why mommaeffortx2's solution could never be implemented either.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 11 years, 11 months ago

Our commissioner, McElhaney, seeing his political future possibly going down the toilet, voted against closing the bridge. The two that voted to close it, I can't remember if we get to vote for. If we can the two that voted to close the bridge would be looking for jobs come next election. If we can't vote for all three, they can screw us with impunity because they do not have to answer to us. That is not fair or right. Thank you, Lynn

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

Jones is in favor of a south of the Waky alignment for the SLT, even though that alignment will is more costly, by millions, than the 32nd street alignment. He opposes the 32nd street alignment even though the land for the 32nd street alignment has already been purchase, in part because of his "sensitivity to the history of Haskell"and his sensitivity to potental damage to the wetlands. Yet he doesnot acknowledge the value of the offer of the 32nd street proponents to expand and improve upon the existing man-made wetlands area that dates back to the 60's. (Boyd, we forgive your father - maybe).

Jones must explain, then, why he would close the bridge over the Kaw at Lecompton and ignore the imminent and real financial injury to the long established businesses in Lecompton and Perry, and the inconvenience and great expense to the hundreds of citizens who use the bridge over the Kaw for their daily activities.

How can Jones justify saving $1,000,000 at the expense of individual citizens and risk to their children, to expedite the inadequate re-surfacing of a bridge over the Kaw, a bridge that needs widening, not just resurfacing, while advocating spending several million more to re-route the SLT?

Mr. Jones, you are an academic. You are not in touch with the real world. My suggestion to you is that you step down. You don't care about people; all you care about is politics and theory.

Sparkle 11 years, 11 months ago

As a Perry-Lecompton student living on the south side of the river, I would hate to think that one or more of my fellow peers would be injured or even killed driving on 40 hwy or 24 hwy on their way to school. But if one or more of my fellow students or myself did get killed I don't think Douglas County would give a second thought to it because they are still saving their money. Obviously they don't care about their youth. And they say that they are going to talk to the Kansas Highway Patrol to make the drive safer, but what are they going to do? Give out more traffic tickets to pay for the bridge?

And a response to many comments above: Many of our students live on the south side of the bridge. In the summer, athletes have weight training four days a week, open gyms, practices, etc to prepare for the up coming year. Usually I make one to two trips a day to our school over the summer and during the school year it's more. So they run the buses over the summer? (I doubt it) And would you like to spend multiple hours on a bus EVERY DAY! I think not!

Rhoen 11 years, 11 months ago

Commissioner Jones has been in the stripe-changing process ever since his election.

I believe he started out as a "Democrat" and now appears to be just another dust-bunny in the pockets of the money-interests that disregard common civility and the ethical approach to governance. What's important to this County Commission is that their buddies' nests remain well-feathered.

Uncle_Salty 11 years, 10 months ago

Jefferson County Commissioners voted this morning to leave the bridge open during construction.

The vote was 2 in favor and 1 opposed.

Now the counties will have to get together and work out a new deal.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.