Jefferson County commissioners will not challenge an earlier decision by their colleagues in Douglas County to take over the Lecompton bridge repair project.
Jefferson County sent a letter Thursday afternoon to Douglas County stating it will not, however, provide funds for the repair project, which could cost at least $3.3 million.
The two counties have disagreed about whether the bridge should be closed when repairs are made, as is favored by Douglas County. Jefferson County favors keeping the bridge open to one lane.
In an agreement earlier in the summer, Douglas County was to pay for about 90 percent of the repair cost. As early as August, however, Douglas County announced intentions to take over the project, close the bridge and pay the entire cost, if Jefferson County chose not to participate. Douglas County presented Jefferson County with some options for paying for contractor incentives.
Jefferson County commissioners said they were not aware that Douglas County made a definite decision to take over the project until they received a copy of a letter Douglas County sent to the Kansas Department of Transportation dated Sept. 26. They said they didn't receive a copy of that letter until this past Monday.
"They always said 'we might, we may, we could,'" Jefferson County Commissioner Dave Christy said.
Christy noted that, during the Sept. 5 Jefferson County meeting, he had made a motion that if Douglas County decided to take over the bridge project, Jefferson County would not supply any funds.
Jefferson County requested the Kansas Department of Transportation to intervene in the matter to resolve the dispute between the two counties. Douglas County commissioners initially opposed KDOT's intervention, but they later changed their minds and agreed to allow KDOT to decide the issue.
In a statement released during Thursday's meeting, Jefferson County said its concern has always been for the safety of the individuals using the bridge.
"The bridge project will cause an immense hardship on the citizens of Lecompton, the citizens of Perry, the school patrons and administration," the statement said.
Douglas County has said keeping the bridge open would present its own safety problems, and the bridge would still have to be closed up to 60 days.
Following the meeting, Christy said he felt as if giving in to Douglas County was like dealing with a hostile takeover. During private conversations, Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson said Douglas County would never allow KDOT to decide the bridge issue, Christy said. He said he thought Douglas County was willing to force the issue into litigation.
"There was never any implication on our part of litigation," Johnson said.
Johnson said Douglas County reluctantly agreed to allow KDOT intervention when KDOT said it would need a request from both counties to resolve the issue.
Christy also said that during a private conversation, Johnson said, "Douglas County would be better off if Lecompton washed down the river."
Johnson denied the allegation.
"Good gracious, no," he said. "I didn't say it. I don't think it. I don't feel it."
Johnson said Lecompton residents who have called and sent e-mails to him have been civil and respectful.
Jefferson County still favors a KDOT resolution, but will send a letter informing the agency that intervention is no longer needed, Christy said.