City commission votes to leave dirt where it is

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

It took almost an hour of discussion at a special meeting Wednesday morning for the Concordia City Commissioners to decide to leave a pile of dirt where it's at.
The meeting was called to make a decision on what to do with dirt that will be leftover when the grading and leveling project is completed in the south flood control area.  City Manager Larry Uri told Commissioners the project – to prepare lots along College Drive for commercial development – will be basically done today. The contractor, he said, needed to know if the Commission wanted the leftover dirt moved to a different location or left where it is.
Uri presented three options for where the dirt could be relocated. The first was to use what dirt is left to partially fill in the city's developable land along Highway 81. The second option was to use the dirt to fill in the drainage ravine along College Drive on the southern portion of the area, and the third was to move it across the road from Cloud County Community College's lower parking lot.
City Engineer Ken Johnson said to move the dirt to the area along Highway 81 would cost an estimated $45,000. He said it would probably take between 18,000 and 19,000 yards of dirt to make that piece of property fully ready to be developed. If the dirt from the current grading project were used, Johnson said, it would probably only halfway complete the project.
"It could be put there, but it won't be enough to have it ready for sale," he said.
A portion of the price tag for that option, he said, would be constructing a road through the middle of the dam project area so the earth moving equipment could access the piece of property.
The option to fill in the drainage ditch was even more expensive. Johnson estimated it would cost $85,000 to not only fill in the area, but also extend the storm sewer pipe that is currently in place. As with the Highway 81 option, he said, there would not be enough dirt to complete the project.
The problem that arises with stockpiling the dirt across from the college parking lot is that the city does not own that land, Johnson said. There also won't be enough dirt to fill in the area so that it's ready for a parking lot to be built.
However, Uri said staff recommendation was to put the dirt there to use as a bargaining chip with the college to get the land in exchange for a parking lot.
Mayor Lyle Pounds said the priorities with this project has always been flood control first and economic development was second. He said the college's parking lot was number three on that list. He said if something were to derail the dam project, he didn't want to see a mound of dirt collecting weeds.
"If we don't have the dirt for the parking lot, we'll need to come up with it at some point," Uri said. "This part (property) is closer to the flood control project because we're going to need to obtain rights to that land and that's (a parking lot) what they want out of this."
Commissioner Tim Parker said he didn't want the Commission to make a hasty decision.
"If we make the wrong decision it could be really expensive," he said. "I would be in favor of waiting until next year when we have a more definite plan."
Commissioner Charles Johnson agreed with Parker.
"There are a lot of loose ends here (with the project)," he said. "I think we stockpile the dirt and tighten up all these loose ends before we make a decision. Until you get these things figured out, any decision we make could be wrong."
On a 4-1 vote, with Pounds voting against it, the Commission approved stockpiling the dirt in its current location.

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