OSWEGO — Labette County commissioners and the Montana Township board both approved on Monday documents related to easements to Evergy for its electrification improvement project along Wallace Road.

In November, Evergy officials told the commission that upgrades on Wallace Road are part of a long-range plan for the transmission system because of additional capacity needed to support tenants in Great Plains Industrial Park and other places. The 69 kilovolt transmission line will run out of capacity, and this project, the first of many in SEK, will help alleviate that. Eventually, the line on Wallace will be upgraded to a 138 kV line and the substation in Parsons will be upgraded as well.

Evergy has been seeking temporary and permanent easements along the road to allow the project to move forward. County commissioners initially voted against granting the easement but approved it in late March after reconsideration and an appeal from Evergy customer solutions manager Kari West.

The Montana Township board, represented by Becky Czapansky and Jackie Addis, approved the easement first for the utility lines to cross the township cemetery, Mitchell Cemetery. The poles will be outside the cemetery boundary and construction should not impact the graves.

Commissioners then signed easement agreements for about 2 acres of county land on Wallace Road, for which the county will receive $1,000 for the temporary construction easement and $5,000 for the right of way settlement.

Commissioner Lonie Addis voted against granting the easement on policy grounds because he doesn’t think the county should give up easement.

County Counselor Brian Johnson said the agreement reached with Evergy would require Evergy upon county request to move its poles, at Evergy’s expense, from county right of way in case the land is needed for future county projects. 

“You’re not going to get anything ever better,” Johnson told commissioners.

Commissioner Cole Proehl noted pros and cons on both sides of granting easement but he wanted to support electrical upgrades. Commissioner Brian Kinzie said he would support economic development.

 

In other business, the commission:

— Received the final report from Jim Zaleski and Laura Moore from the city of Parsons for the county’s program to spend $3.98 million in COVID-19 relief in 2020 and 2021. Zaleski said $2,000 is left to be spent on an audit that’s expected in late May. Cities, school districts, Labette Community College, Labette Health and individuals and businesses benefited from the program.

“Right now we’re sitting here having spent to the penny every single dime that they sent us,” Zaleski said. “So I think this is a great program for the county and all the cities in the county. We spread it out as much as we possibly could.”

— Heard that the American Rescue Plan approved by Congress and signed by President Biden would bring additional relief funds to the county in the coming months. The U.S. Treasury is still tweaking the plan and spending rules. One aspect of the program would restart the calculation to allow county employees additional leave related to COVID-19 in case they have to quarantine or isolate because of exposure or illness. Commissioners already extended this leave for 2021 and County Clerk Gena Landis said some employees have already used their COVID leave hours and the federal ARP would allow those hours to restart effective April 1.

— Met with Matthew Godinez, executive director of the Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission, to review the RPC’s grants and its ability to help counties and cities.

— Agreed to allow Mound Valley to use county equipment and county employees to chip and seal 20 to 25 blocks of streets in the community. The city pays the workers as if they were working for the city.

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