Upgrades coming for School Road

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Cass County Presiding Commissioner Jeff Cox has been hard at work over the past year to come up with a plan to improve School Road. Monday night, significant progress was made with the City of Peculiar, getting one phase of the project one step closer to completion.

The Peculiar Board of Aldermen unanimously passed the first reading of Bill No. 2014-08 at City Hall on Monday, an ordinance approving and accepting the interlocal agreement with Cass County for the repavement of School Road from East 203rd Street to East 211th Street.

“I appreciate all the work Mayor Jungmeyer and City Manager Brad Ratliff have put into this,” Commissioner Cox said.

“I think we have the political will to do this right now.”

Cox repeatedly stressed the importance of finalizing a contract between the City and the County before the upcoming municipal elections — so that newly-elected officials would not have to start at the beginning and work through the various details in order to get the two governmental bodies where they are today.

Last year, Commissioner Cox presented a plan to both Raymore and Peculiar that involved both municipalities, along with the County, in the cost sharing of School Road improvements. This plan was justified due to the large amount of students from Raymore who travel that road to attend Raymore-Peculiar High School. Peculiar was on board with the plan, but Raymore — after much discussion — decided not to participate. The plan involved both cities forgoing their portions of the quarter cent road and bridge tax that comes back as a refund to individual municipalities. By forfeiting those funds, the cities could have contributed to the project without paying anything out of pocket.

As the Raymore City Councilmembers spoke their minds during the April 22 meeting when this matter was discussed, it became obvious that the majority of them believed this proposal would result in an improper use of taxpayer dollars for the citizens of Raymore.

Councilman Ryan Wescoat said, “Do we give the money to Peculiar to fix their roads and then tell our citizens ‘Sorry’…because we gave their money to another municipality?” Councilmembers Abdelgawad, Hubach, Boehner, and Moorhead all expressed the same thoughts.

Councilman Kevin Kellogg made an emotional plea to approve the proposal before he and Councilman Stevens cast the only votes in favor of the plan, making the final vote 6-2.

After the meeting, Cox said that  the city’s decision was unfortunate. “At this point we’ll sit down, roll up our sleeves, and the county will look at other options,” he stated.

Cox and the other commissioners did just that over the past eleven months, resulting in a plan that keeps the School Road improvement project in three phases, with the County footing the total bill for phases one and two which stretch from Hubach Hill Road to 203rd Street.

pecPhase three, which the Peculiar Board of Aldermen discussed on Monday night, will have a shared cost of roughly 55% to the County and 45% to the City.

Cass County’s total cost for phase three is just under $1.2 million, as they will pay for 50% of grading and surfacing and 100% of engineering/surveying, construction administration, and right-of-way acquisitions and utility relocations located in the unincorporated areas of the County.

Peculiar’s total cost for phase three is just under $928,000. The City will pay for 50% of grading and surfacing as well as right-of-way acquisitions and utility relocations located within Peculiar city limits.

A potential silver lining to the expensive upgrades is the potential for a grant that would refund a great majority of the cost spent by the County and the City in phase three. The MoDOT Surface Transportation Program (STP) provides grants for road improvements that enhance safety. Peculiar City Administrator Brad Ratliff said that this phase three project is an 80% match to the grant’s standards.

“That grant would pay for the majority, about 99%, of the cost associated with phase three,” Ratliff said. He stated that the grant would provide about $1.7 million dollars.

“We’re hopeful of that,” he continued.

In regards to the other phases of the projects, Cox stated that phase one is nearing the commencement of construction and phase two is still in the right-of-way acquisition process.

“We’re moving full steam ahead on phase one to get it constructed this year,” Cox said.

“I want to compliment you on this,” said Alderman Homer Dunsworth. Dunsworth referred to his time on the Ray-Pec School Board a number of years ago and how School Road was one of the most consistent complaints from parents.

“I still don’t know how the heck you guys pulled it off,” he concluded after speaking highly of Cox’s works. “Good job, buddy.”

Peculiar’s budget is still about $200,000 short for this project, so Ratliff suggested that the City should set aside the quarter cent road and bridge tax to make up that money over the next four years.

Cost overruns and savings would be split evenly between Peculiar and Cass County.

The ordinance was approved unanimously.

Also approved unanimously was a resolution approving and accepting a supplemental agreement with Land3 Studios architecture firm for design and construction phase services of the Raisbeck Park Renovation Project.

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