LYNDON—Osage County Commissioners discussed ongoing issues with area rail-trails. Willie Prescott, Osage County Farm Bureau public policy chairman, requested a place on the agenda, although several community members were also present in council chambers.
Prescott said the federal statutes and state statutes don’t coincide, also noting that the statutes go back many years.
“Thirty-two years is a long time,” said Prescott. “Some adjoining landowners want to see it go one way and others want to see it go another.”
Prescott said the Farm Bureau recommended seeking some clarification on statutes from the attorney general.
“I think we can put a question into them about the timeframe and have at least an objective person look at it,” said Caleb Crook, county counselor.
“As well as expected maintenance and issues there,” said Prescott.
“We could phrase a question ‘Is there a certain amount of time these things have to be done?’ and ‘What happens if these things aren’t done?’” said Crook.
“What are the consequences and who would be the enforcing entity?” asked Prescott.
Crook said the county would be interested in answers such as what the county’s specific duty is, what would be private landowner’s duty and if not the county then who can bring action?
Ken Kuykendall, chairman, expressed interest in also seeking clarification in responsibility for maintaining fences along the trail, to Kanza Rails-Trails or adjacent landowners.
“And what if we do ask the attorney general and get answers back that don’t really give you anything?” asked Kuykendall. “What good is that? I have no problem asking for an opinion, but I’m not confident it will go anywhere.”
“The attorney general opinions are based on what the law says and no personal opinions,” said Prescott.
Commissioners then asked for public comments.
Doug Walker, vice president, Kanza Rails-Trails Conservancy, spoke first, disputing Prescott’s statement.
“This quarter we’re talking about wasn’t rail banked until 1996, so you’re not really dealing with 32 years,” said Walker. “I’m also excited the Farm Bureau is now willing to get the trail done, but at the same time chide the Farm Bureau. If there’s some clarification issues it’s kind of their fault, because they are the ones that actually drafted the legislation.”
Walker also offered assurance that the trail would be completed.
“It may take awhile,” he said. “We started in 2000 at zero miles and now we’ve got 60 miles.”
Jim Foster, rural Carbondale, volunteered information out of a book on railroad law.
Foster said the book breaks down railroad right of way among other issues.
“I offer this book to settle legal issues, draw logic from and move forward with,” he said.
Following Foster, comments were also heard from Sue Stringer, Quenemo resident and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism employee, Kareen King, Osage City resident and Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy board member, Jim Thomas, Lyndon resident, and Trent McCown, Garnett.
“I’d like to pursue this and all have some input on what questions we want answered from the attorney general,” said Gaylord Anderson, commissioner.
“Give me a couple weeks to draft something,” said Crook.
In other business, commissioners:
• approved a purchase order for the sheriff’s office in the amount of $509 for 911 education material.
• conditionally approved a neighborhood revitalization application for a commercial property for Harley Gerdes.
• heard the weekly road and bridge report from Glen Tyson, road and bridge supervisor.
Tyson recommended a lease purchase agreement for equipment that could cost the county $400 a month, compared to renting the same equipment for nearly $7,000 per month.
Tyson said he received more estimates on installation of a new scale at the transfer station. The lowest estimate was received from WH Scale Co., Topeka for approximately $41,800. Tyson noted funds available in the budget for the purchase and installation. Tyson will work to get a lease-purchase agreement together.
• held a 15-minute executive session for attorney client matters, with Crook.