Easement negotiations continue on county bridge projects

Negotiations with one landowner for an easement has temporarily stalled phase 2 of Osage County’s ongoing bridge replacement project.

County road and bridge supervisor Glen Tyson reported to county commissioners Monday that he had received information from Taggart and Associates, the company negotiating easements for the $4.3 million bridge project, that a counter offer for a right of way near bridge No. 55 been made by landowner Eldon Croucher, but the amount was not consistent with amounts agreed upon with other landowners.

As reported to Tyson by Vicky Massey, of Taggart and Associates, the primary difference was the amount Croucher was asking for 2,352 square feet of easement in the proposed construction area of the bridge that is ¼ mile west of the intersection of 221st Street and Indian Hills Road, near Peterton.

Croucher requested $1 per square foot, while other easement agreements have paid four cents to six cents per square foot, Tyson said.

Croucher had also requested to be paid $1,000 for two oak trees that are in the proposed right of way.

Tyson and engineer Bob Chambers, of Cook, Flatt, and Strobel, told commissioners the trees are not expected to be affected by the construction.

“We can work around them,” Chambers said. “They’re within the boundary of the right of way, but they’re not going to be touched.”

Massey reported that Croucher’s estimation of the trees’ value was more than their value as lumber. Including rebuilding 225 feet of barbed wire fence and relocating a gate, Croucher’s request totaled $4,489.

Commissioners agreed that Croucher’s request for fence rebuilding was consistent with other estimates, but the value he placed on the land included in the easement was too high.

“He’s asking for about 20 times more,” said Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall.

Kuykendall suggested to “see if we can’t shove that bridge a few feet” so that Croucher’s land is not included in the construction zone, noting the landowner on the other side of the road wants the new bridge and has offered more of his land for the project if needed.

Kuykendall said landowner Lou Robert “told me he doesn’t care, take as many trees as we want, he wants the bridge, he’s desperate for the bridge. He wants to get to his farms without having to go miles around.”

County counselor Caleb Crook said paying the amount requested by Croucher could add to the cost of easements remaining to be negotiated.

“Frankly, if you pay one guy a dollar square foot, and the others get four cents or six cents, you just set the land prices 20 times higher for the rest of the project,” Crook said.

Kuykendall indicated he did not want the county to pay more for Croucher’s easement than offered other landowners.

“Is there a way? The easy way is to move the bridge the other way and leave this guy alone,” Kuykendall said.

Chambers said if it was possible “to swing it to one side” other expenses could be involved, such as needing to move more dirt.

Kuykendall said he’d rather pay more for added construction costs than pay Croucher’s request.

“I don’t care if we spend $6,000 more on dirt work,” Kuykendall said.

Commissioners also noted another option of condemning the property for the easement would add legal expenses to the project.

Chambers said he would review the plans and the site to determine whether the bridge could be constructed to exclude the need for Croucher’s easement. The commissioners agreed to take no action until they hear from Chambers whether the bridge can be relocated and how much expense might result. Kuykendall asked Chambers if the easement negotiation was delaying sending out bid specifications for the last two phases of the bridge project.

“It’s the hold up on phase 2,” Chambers said.

In June the commissioners accepted bids on phases 1 and 3, which will replace six bridges across the county. Phases 2 and 4 will replace seven more bridges. Monday, the commissioners signed contracts with Ebert Construction Co., Wamego, which offered the low bids on phases 1 and 3, at $533,765 and $421,661 respectively. See related story here.

In other business Monday, the commissioners approved a conditional use permit for Kansas Trophy Outfitters LLC, to operate a bed and breakfast and hunting lodge south of Lyndon at 28784 S. 75 Hwy.

Other action taken was approval of a memorandum of understanding with health departments in Lyon, Chase, Franklin, Greenwood, Coffey, Wabaunsee, and Morris counties, in an effort to increase local health services by sharing resources.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas