No hitch in expanding utilities



September 30, 2014 - 12:00 AM

It remains to be seen what Iola may have to come up with in terms of funding if local voters approve new elementary and high schools in November. Those costs are certain to be less than what the city paid to assist with the new Allen County Regional Hospital, Iola City Administrator Carl Slaugh said Monday.
“We haven’t made any commitment on what we would pay,” for the schools project, Slaugh told the Register.
Unlike with the hospital construction in 2012 — which cost the city $129,000, not including labor — there likely won’t be any type of request for the city to foot the cost of extending utilities to the site.
The difference?
Extending utilities for the hospital “was a negotiated item with the City Council and the hospital board of trustees,” Slaugh said.
The school district has not made any type of similar request, nor is it expected to, USD 257 Superintendent of Schools Jack Koehn said.
“Utility extensions (costs) are included in the bonds,” Koehn said.
The 257 Board of Education has an option to purchase 95 acres of land along Oregon Road, just outside Iola’s northern city limits.
If voters approve the schools project, the city is expected to annex the land in order to provide utilities, Slaugh said.
There are some issues that may cost the city, although those, too, are undetermined and not expected to be major.
The land in question is within Anderson County No. 5 Water District’s service area, Slaugh explained. Likewise, he remains uncertain whether the land is within Iola’s natural gas service area, or is served by Kansas Gas Service.
“I’m still not sure where the gas boundaries are,” Slaugh said.
In any event, Slaugh doesn’t anticipate any major costs for the city to service the land.
While the parcel of land is served by Anderson County No. 5, the water district has no nearby facilities, Iola Assistant Administrator Corey Schinstock said. The district’s nearest water main is more than half a mile away.
“The water district does not have service connections or lines in the area,” Slaugh said. “Generally, if there are no service connections, there is no purchase involved. It’s just a change in territory. And since there are no service connections, it should be a fairly easy process, through annexation” to put the land under the city’s utilities umbrella.
Slaugh expects a similar procedure, if necessary, to provide natural gas.
“In any event, the big thing for the city is providing electricity,” Schinstock said. “And that area already is served by the city.”
If the schools are built along Oregon, one of the first tasks would be a traffic study to determine whether Oregon and North State streets would need to be altered to accommodate the increased traffic flow.
“We might have to put in a shoofly (exterior turning lane), but those are minor and fairly easy to do,” Schinstock said. “My thought is it should be a part of the school’s (budget) to handle the traffic flow.”

AS AN ASIDE, a new school campus on the north edge of town might prompt the city to look once again at extending Cottonwood Street to Oregon Road.
The city has considered extending Cottonwood since before Cedarbrook Golf Course was split in two, with the western half going to housing development.
“Cottonwood is something we haven’t pushed because there wasn’t a need,” Schinstock said. “Carl and I have talked about it, and engineers have somewhat looked at it. Depending on how this bond issue goes might dictate how fast we might want to move forward with it.
“It would be wise to look at it a little more closely,” Schinstock continued. “To me, that would create a lot cleaner traffic flow. Plus, it’s not just for the school district, but for the college as well. The college brings in a lot of traffic. And, it gives us a second access point to Cedarbrook.”
Preliminary costs to extend Cottonwood about 1,200 feet have been pegged at about $600,000, not counting property acquisition.
Funding for such a project would come from the city’s portion of the added sales tax revenue.
The bond issue includes a separate vote to increase sales taxes within Iola one-half percent, split evenly between the city and USD 257. The sales tax vote was incorporated through an interlocal agreement with USD 257 and the city as a means to keep property taxes down.

VOTERS will go to the polls Nov. 4 to decide two referendums for the proposed $50 million project — an ad valorem tax levy that would increase property taxes a net 9 mills over what’s spent this year; and portions of a half-cent sales tax in front of Iola voters. (The other half of the added sales tax revenues would go to the city for capital improvement projects).
More than half of the funding (51 percent) for the bond and interest would come from state aid. Jefferson, Lincoln and McKinley elementary schools would close, as would Iola High School and its satellite buildings .
Meanwhile, crews would do about $1 million worth of remodeling at Iola Middle School.

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