OSWEGO — Labette County commissioners are looking at sharing with Great Plains Industrial Park a portion of increased fees collected in the future from overweight trucks carrying wind turbine parts.
But a new fee schedule must be created to increase the current fee of $100 per overweight load that is hauled out of Great Plains to wind farm projects in the area, including Neosho Ridge Wind in Neosho County.
Commissioners met with Brad Reams, Great Plains park director, Tim Peoples, property manager, and Becky Dantic, project manager, on Monday morning to get an update on the industrial park.
Reams discussed many of the updates the Great Plains board heard about last week, including the fact that storage spaces at the plant are getting leased. He said 500,000 square feet of inside storage spaces are leased as well as 28 acres of outdoor storage.
Peoples updated the commission on the derailment from Aug. 15. The Union Pacific Railroad is fixing the track damaged when a spacer car became derailed.
Peoples also discussed the fee collected by the county from trucks hauling turbine parts out of the Transportation Partners & Logistics laydown yard at Great Plains. The trucks use about 2 to 2.5 miles of road in the park and then travel on 24000 Road, a county road, to join up with U.S. 400 to transport the parts to project sites. When a truck has an overweight load, the trucking company is supposed to get a county permit and pay the $100 fee. This money is put aside for road repairs.
Commissioners learned that so far the fee has generated $102,000 in payments. But Peoples said more than 1,800 of these loads had left or entered the plant.
Peoples said he receives reports from TP&L on overweight trucks. So far, 1,877 trucks have traveled in or out of the park. He said 1,626 of those trucks were leaving and 251 were entering. If each of these trucks was overweight, the fees generated should have equaled $187,700. He and Reams said they want to make sure the county captures all the revenue available from overweight fees.
Commissioner Lonie Addis said the county’s collection number reflects loads through June. July’s numbers were not part of that, he said.
Commissioners were going to try to learn if all trucking companies are paying the fee.
Commissioner Doug Allen said he told Reams and others at Great Plains that the county would share the fee revenue so Great Plains could make road repairs as well. The heavy trucks are creating wear on the park roads.
Addis said he was against sharing the money collected so far with Great Plains because the county must pool money to repair 24000 Road and to improve Scott Road so that these heavy trucks can travel that shorter gravel road to meet up with U.S. 400 instead of traveling on 24000 Road to get on the highway.
Allen suggested that any increase in fees collected over the original $100 per load could be given to Great Plains to help with road repairs and Addis and Commissioner Fred Vail agreed with that suggestion.
Peoples said he would study what other counties are collecting in overweight fees and report back to commissioners to get the fee changed.
Commissioners also received an update on the state SPARK money distribution in Labette County.
The county received $3,983,558.77 from the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas program, which is distributing the federal pandemic relief money in Kansas. The money can be used to reimburse for COVID-19-related expenses or for projects tied to the pandemic.
Jim Zaleski, city of Parsons economic development director, Laura Moore, city of Parsons community development director, and Charlie Morse, Labette County Emergency Management director, gave the update. Much of the discussion time was spent on what-if scenarios.
Zaleski said Great Plains Industrial Park will use a $4,485 grant from a connectivity program to install a video check-in system at the gate that will require less contact with the out-of-state truck drivers coming into the plant. The county has four programs, in addition to direct aid payments, to offer money to food pantry programs, child care and senior care programs, economic development and connectivity programs.
The distributions in each program will be limited at first to get as much money as possible out to the greatest number of organizations. After Nov. 10, commissioners with direction from Zaleski, Moore and Morse will decide on distributing the remainder of the funds. Commissioners have decided all distributions. Labette Health will receive $1.25 million of that money and the rest will go to cities, schools and Labette Center for Mental Health Services.
Wesley United Methodist Church and Parsons Recreation Commission also received funding from these programs. More applications and agreements will be coming.
Also, commissioners wanted Zaleski and Morse to review a funding request from rural fire departments and see which of their requests would relate to COVID-19 and report back to commissioners.
Addis and Vail said they’ve received several calls from rural firefighters. Originally, the firefighters sent in a request for more than $600,000 but provided no detail. More detail has since been provided.
Commissioners later approved accounts payable totaling $1,114,525.21, of which $879,047.63 represented outgoing payments from SPARK funds.
In other business, the commission:
— Appointed Becky Czapansky as treasurer for Montana Township.
— Met in closed session for 15 minutes to discuss nonelected personnel with Sheriff Darren Eichinger.