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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Letter to the editor: Leavenworth County's new bridge leads to nowhere

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  • To the editor:
    Where do we draw the line between fiscal responsibility and government waste?
    Since we are apparently not getting a public hearing — as requested — on a proposed $650,000 bridge — High Prairie No. 25 — we are using printed, public, and social media to alert the taxpayers of Leavenworth County to this plan. As adjacent property owners and taxpayers, we question the justification of this project on a two-mile stretch of gravel road, going from a dead end to a crossroad, only one mile of which is affected by the bridge. The seven households living on this road rarely use this bridge. Between Feb. 20 and 25, a traffic survey was conducted at our request, and showed a daily usage of 15 vehicles. This could possibly mean only eight people using the bridge, going round trip, such as for mail delivery.
    The Public Works Department of Leavenworth has furnished us with copies of legal bridge inspections from 2010, 2012, and 2013. All these inspections stress the repair and maintenance of the bridge as “quite important — should be made a repair priority.”
    The projected cost in 2010 was $38,400, and in 2012 it was $41,600. No figures were given for 2013, but the maintenance recommendation was again to correct erosion and repair footing exposure. Nothing has been done in these four and a half years to maintain this bridge, in spite of the urgency of the recommendations. Why not?
    It is our understanding that approximately half of the funding for this bridge is from the Mid America Regional Council — also known as federal tax dollars — but more than $300,000 is coming from Leavenworth County taxpayers. Other options could be to repair the bridge and lower the tonnage allowed on it, i.e. farm machinery, or as the county engineer said could happen, close the bridge. If pedestrian traffic would be allowed, this would be the best solution as far as the effected property owners are concerned, as it certainly would cut down on pollution from a dusty road.
    As an example, the city of Leavenworth has done just that on 11th street between Shawnee and Cherokee. That bridge is closed except to pedestrian/bicycle traffic.  
    Some of our concerns have been addressed, and the bridge is proposed to be raised only two feet. But, easements are still being asked for widening and the road right-of-way is to be increased from 20 to 40 feet. No other part of the road is being widened, and it is beyond our understanding why this is requested for our properties. Furthermore, we were never even informed of this proposed project until Jan. 2, 2014, when we received a correspondence from the property acquisition negotiator. Yet the project was approved in November 2012.
    The County Commission is currently working on the 2015 budget, with limited funds for enhancements. A request from the EMS director for $60,000 toward an ambulance would seem like a better place to use county tax dollars for the good of more people.
    Page 2 of 2 - It was called to our attention that comparison was “apples to oranges” in that once money was approved for bridges that is where the money was to be directed. Without taxing oneself for examples, the bridge on Desoto Road by St. Francis de Sales and the one on McDonald Road near Time Warner are in much more dire straits, with many hundred more cars a day traversing them. Does that not make this proposal even more ludicrous?
    The focus on better buying power has been a long time coming in the federal acquisition and budget communities. Taxpayer dollars need to be managed in a way that maximizes value to all levels of government and ultimately the taxpayer.
    The large sum of $650,000.00 for a project that benefits so few is excessive and a prime example of government waste. We need to refocus on how these funds can be used in the most efficient manner for the good of many. Just because the government funds have been received does not mean they must be used. Yet this is the way the county represented it to us at a meeting this spring.
    We must stop being solely focused on the premise that if the funds are not used, the funds will be reduced or taken away. The taxpayer dollar is certainly in jeopardy when the aforementioned argument is the prime motivation for proceeding on such a frivolous project. The risk is entering into a quick but poor project or deal to expend funds primarily to avoid reductions in future budget years. And at the risk of repeating ourselves, none of the affected property owners pushed for nor wanted the bridge.
    There should be a deliberate process by which these projects are reviewed, so the taxpayer is aware of how the government — both county and federal — are using or may we be so bold to suggest abusing the citizens’ tax dollars. It is a sin and a crime.
    We hope that if you are concerned about how your tax dollars are being spent, you might call it to the attention of your commissioners. After all, it is your money.
    Margaret Liebeno
    Martin and Melanie Dannatt
    Leavenworth

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