County Commission approves amended KDOT agreement that will return fewer federal dollars to county

Douglas County commissioners approved Wednesday what they were told were unwelcome changes in an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Commissioners agreed to amend an April 2016 agreement with KDOT, which had the county forwarding the federal road and bridge funding it received each year to KDOT, with the agreement the county would receive 90 percent of the money back.

Keith Browning, county public works director, said the county benefited from the exchange despite losing 10 percent of the federal funding because the money from KDOT did not require the same level of expensive preconstruction and documentation as federal projects. The county also has had more flexibility in the use of KDOT funds, he said.

KDOT informed the county last year it was losing money at the 90/10 exchange rate and would return exchanged funding at its break-even point of 75 percent in fiscal year 2018, Browning said. KDOT also informed the county it would review the exchange rate annually, he said.

In addition, KDOT now dictates the federal money exchanged must be used that year and not saved for projects in future years, Browning said. Douglas County has frequently put aside the exchanged funding to bankroll big projects, he said.

KDOT’s annual review of the exchange rate will complicate planning for future road and bridge projects, Browning said. Public Works was working on the assumption KDOT would keep the exchange rate at 75 percent for “a few years,” he said.

Commissioners approved the changes, 3-0, after Browning informed them that KDOT voluntarily shares the federal funding it receives, and it can decide how much to distribute to local governments.