Archive for Monday, January 30, 2012

Town Talk: Radio station apologizes for KU mistake of ‘epic proportions’; sand plant slated for Jeff. Co. but traffic slated for Douglas; a three-story office building for cheap

January 30, 2012


Subscribe to the Town Talk email edition

Subscribe to the email edition of Town Talk and we'll deliver you the latest city news and notes every weekday at noon.

News and notes from around town:

• Last week we reported how Lawrence radio station 105.9 (formerly the Lazer, now KISS) made several Jayhawk fans mad by not airing the KU vs. Texas men’s basketball game because it would have interfered with a weekend commercial-free promotion it was running. So, I thought it only fair that I pass along an apology that the managers at 105.9 have posted online and elsewhere.

Jay Wachs, the station’s relatively new general manager, said in a letter to listeners and advertisers that the decision to dump the game was “a mistake of epic proportions, and I wish to extend my sincere apology for this error in judgment.” He went on to say that “the overwhelmingly negative response to my decision has clearly demonstrated to me that the 11th commandment is ‘thou shall not mess with KU on 105.9 … ever.’”

A mistake of epic proportions — I’d be broke if I had to pay a dollar every time I was forced to utter that phrase at my house.

• Several weeks ago, we reported how a Lawrence concrete company was looking to build a new sand plant operation along the Kansas River between Perry and Lecompton. Midwest Concrete Materials turned to Jefferson County after a plan to build a similar plant near Midland Junction in northern Douglas County kind of hit a … concrete wall after several neighbors and environmentalists objected. But fear not concrete lovers, Jefferson County commissioners recently approved the plant. Jefferson County Zoning Administrator Bill Noll said commissioners unanimously approved the plans, which call for about 200 acres along the Kansas River to be used for an “off-river” sand pit operation. In other words, there won’t be any actual dredging of the river, which does create a lot of controversy with groups like Friends of the Kaw and others who are concerned about the river environment.

But the most interesting part about this whole project is that even though it is now in Jefferson County, it appears most of the impacts will be in Douglas County. MCM has its concrete plant on East 23rd Street near the East Hills business park. So, that’s where the majority of the sand is going to get trucked to. According to a traffic analysis, about 60 trucks — each loaded with about 25 tons of sand — will be leaving the facility on a standard work day. A good majority of those trucks will be heading south over the Kansas River bridge at Lecompton and going through Lawrence.

Originally, Jefferson County’s planning staff — which includes former Douglas County Planning Director Linda Finger — had proposed a per-ton fee be charged to MCM to account for the wear and tear on the road. The original proposal was that 70 percent of that fee would be sent to Douglas County, because Douglas County roads would be the most heavily impacted by the operations.

But guess what? Jefferson County commissioners decided the idea of sending the bulk of a fee collected in Jefferson County to Douglas County didn’t sound quite right. So Jefferson County commissioners did approved a 2 percent per-ton fee, but Jefferson County will keep all the money. According to some documents from Jefferson County, it looks like the fee could generate $30,000 to $40,000 in revenue easily enough, based on recent sand prices of about $5.50 per ton. That fee will be in addition to any Jefferson County property and sales taxes paid by MCM.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for sand plants in Douglas County. There continues to be a pending request for a similar operation just north of Eudora along the Kansas River. But I believe most of that sand will be shipped to Kansas City, meaning that most of those trucks would be traveling on Leavenworth County roads. Eudora officials, though, have vigorously opposed the plans. They specifically have concerns about the sand pit potentially harming the city’s nearby well field, which supplies the city’s drinking water. Douglas County commissioners will consider a conditional-use permit for that sand plant operation at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Wednesday at the DouglasCounty Courthouse.

Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, look for sand plants to get more discussion in the county. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department recently added to its list of projects to complete for 2012 a report that will study suitable locations for sand plant operations in the county.

• While we’re in the Lecompton neighborhood … the town of about 625 people in northwest Douglas County has what it thinks is a fairly unique business opportunity — an old high school. I was talking to Lecompton councilwoman Elsie Middleton recently, and she told me the city of Lecompton has taken back possession of the former Lecompton High School Building. Since the early 1990s, the building had been used as office space for the regional educational cooperative that served Jefferson County and the surrounding area. But that organization has moved its offices to Ozawkie.

According to an old article I found, the city of Lecompton basically gave the building to the cooperative for a dollar, but with the condition that it would revert to the city if the organization left.

Now, the city hopes to strike a similar deal with some other organization or business that wants to call Lecompton home. The building has some selling points, Middleton said. The old building is three stories tall and has a marble staircase and halls for starters.

“It is a very substantial building,” Middleton said. “We feel like it is an upcoming opportunity for us. We will work to market it.”

Lecompton hopes to use its geography to its advantage. It is about 15 minutes from both western Lawrence and eastern Topeka. In fact, it is so close to both cities that telephone calls to both Topeka and Lawrence are considered local calls, Middleton said.

And, you can probably buy sand cheap, too.


Lawrence Morgan 6 years ago

The fees from the sand trucks should be paid to Douglas County.

As for the building in Lecompton, it might be used for art studios and non-profit work. The town is very historic and it should attract writers and artists from a wide area.

Getwiththeprogramdouglascounty 6 years ago

Douglas County had their chance to collect the revenues. You should be mad at them, not Jefferson County.

Jake Esau 6 years ago

If the SLT was completed, the trucks wouldn't have to go through Lawrence... (though they would still put wear and tear on Douglas County roads)

Godot 6 years ago

That 3 story office building in Lecompton would be a great place for the SRS office. Who can argue with free rent?

Jonathan Fox 6 years ago

I'm becoming less and less surprised at the ability of Lawrence/DoCo to put up "concrete walls" in front of perfectly good industries and watch them easily (unanimously approved) find a home elsewhere. Where not only do we lose the sales and property tax revenues but now DoCo has to have higher road maintenance costs that are paid by the tax payers here so that Jeff Co can have a nice tax paying business.

pace 6 years ago

Took radio station 105.9 long enough to apologize and then it was weak. What kind of manager doesn't know the community or the history of the station's listeners? I don't like collegiate sports, think they are a waste of time and I found it insulting the radio station just ignored the people who relied on it.

jackpot 6 years ago

Check the bridge at Lecompton I don't think it can be used for that type of traffic. So look out downtown.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

In my home county, Cheyenne county, Kansas, there was quite an event some years back. I don't remember the exact type of construction going on, but a few trucks were making a large number of crossings over a local bridge that had something like a 10 or 20 ton weight limit. The trucks were far more than that, I don't know how much, but it was huge, like 50 tons maybe.

And then one day, the inevitable happened. The bridge collapsed underneath one of the trucks. Luckily, the driver was uninjured.

The company was required to pay the cost of replacing the bridge, which was rather expensive, about $100,000 or so, because it was rather long. It had been built for the convenience of the local farmers. Everyone that regularly crossed that bridge had to go about 20 miles out of their way until the new bridge was completed, which was many months.

Of course, the driver of the truck that the bridge collapsed underneath was cited for being overweight on a bridge that was clearly marked as being far underneath the weight of the truck he was driving. All of the other drivers got away with it, and I'm sure they were very happy about that.

Nothing could be done about the ticket because he was clearly guilty, and so he had a mar on his driving record for quite some time. That's not good for someone with a CDL. The driver of a truck is ultimately responsible for making sure that he never crosses a bridge with a weight limit less than the weight of his truck, even though he was on the route his employer had instructed him to take. Of course, that was because all of the other possible routes were about 20 miles longer in each direction. And, they were going back and forth, loaded on the way to the construction side, and unloaded on the way back.

But that wasn't a first in Cheyenne county. One of the local farmers was crossing a different bridge which collapsed underneath him. Everyone just had to go look at the tractor sitting in the river! It was quite a while before it was moved, because it was a big operation to get it out of the river since it was a very heavy and very expensive tractor. It was seriously damaged by being in the water.

Getwiththeprogramdouglascounty 6 years ago

Where do you people think they were getting their sand from before!! The trucks have been driving through Lawrence for decades. Long before MCM purchased them just a couple of years ago. Farmers are driving over that bridge and down that road every day with grain trucks, and every other road in the country. Shouldn't we put a toll on every road & bridge in the country then? Be realistic people. There is a ton of truck traffic on these same roads already.

Boston_Corbett 6 years ago

I remember when all the Jeff County people were bitching and complaining about the reconstruction of the bridge.

DG & JF counties split the costs based on valuation, which made the citizens of Lawrence and Douglas Co shoulder most of the costs. Then JF CO demanded a lane remain open during reconstruction, greatly increasing the overall costs of the reconstruction, which Lawrence and Douglas County were already paying the most part of.

Sounds to me like DG CO ought to consider imposing a toll on the south end of the bridge for non Douglas County traffic.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

I have never heard of a toll bridge where the locals didn't have to pay the toll.

kevbel246 6 years ago

The company is a Douglas county company, so they would be included in the free toll.

repaste 6 years ago

They are fairly common, some give huge bulk toll purchase discounts for sale in community.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.