Supervisors And SCRAA Sit Down To Discuss 220th Street

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk talks about the county's proposal to mitigate the closure of 220th Street, which is a farm to market road with members of the SCRAA Board and representatives from the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk talks about the county’s proposal to mitigate the closure of 220th Street, which is a farm to market road, with members of the SCRAA Board and representatives from the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors and the South Central Regional Airport Agency Board sat down in a worksession on Monday to discuss 220th Street.

The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors contends that the closure of 220th Street doesn’t help to solve an issue of what to do with the farm to market road.

The SCRAA says that the study has been completed, and an earlier proposed pass-through road for farm traffic has already been approved.

The issue of the road closure and relocation of the farm to market is one of the central points of contention in the ongoing legal battle over the proposed regional airport.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk proposed three different options to the group in regards to the closure of 220th Street.

The first of those was to move the proposed airport north of it’s proposed location, which according to Groenendyk would give an opportunity to create more room to relocate 220th on the south side, but may cause roads on the north side to be relocated.

The second option given by Groenendyk was to move the airport to a “totally different site.”

The third option given by Groenendyk was to divert traffic “to a totally different road. Try and get the traffic that would flow down 220th to a different road and over 163 in a safe pattern.”

“Those are the three things we’ve talked about. I guess we’re here for input and see what everybody wants to do to move forward, and then, the fourth thing of it is, how we’re going to get this all paid for and move forward on it. Whether you want us to do the engineering fees or you guys want to do it, and how you’re going to reimburse or however we want to do it,” added Groenendyk.

Groenendyk asked the SCRAA board if they had any concerns they wanted to bring forward.

“I don’t have any disagreements with that,” added SCRAA Board President Jim Hansen. “I would say those first two options of moving the airport north or moving it to a totally different site, that would be up to the members. It would be up to the county and the two cities to decide if they want to do that.”

“Our board has been told to build it,” added Hansen, who explained that if the parties involved decide to do something different “that’s fine.”

“What do you think the best option’s going to be to move forward?” asked Groenendyk of Hansen. “We’ve got three options on the table.”

Pella City Manager Mike Nardini asked the question of what was in the environmental assessment of the proposed airport.

Jerry Searle of HDR Inc, and consultant for SCRAA, said that as they went through the environmental assessment, “we provided an opportunity for input and comments and [at] the end of the day, what was included in the environmental assessment was to construct a roadway around the south end of the runway to allow slow moving farm vehicles to traverse from the point of disconnection on 220th from one side to the other.”

That proposed access road is something Groenendyk said was never brought to nor approved by the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors “up to this point. Is that a correct statement?”

Searle said the access road “was set forth within the environmental process and when the concerns were expressed by the public, then we reached out to FAA to see if they had any objection to allowing such to occur; if we could actually construct this kind of roadway.”

Searle then handed out copies of a map that indicated the footprint of acquisition for the airport and the proposed access road.

“I guess Mark, to further answer your question, this was the concept that was discussed, I think in December of ’16 at our last work session,” said Hansen.

“I envisioned it more going in the circle route and back and connect to Independence Avenue to cut some miles off, to make it more of a secondary road again versus just a service road,” added Groenendyk. “We’re taking the third busiest gravel road we have in our county into a service road and so I’m not sure that’s going to be appropriate for the mobilization of all the safety of all the people traveling is an issue.”

Hansen said there had been a proposal from the prior Mahaska County Engineer, and he said that it didn’t seem the parties understood what the proposal was. “Not being able to understand it, it was based somewhat on the potential changes in 163 which haven’t been approved yet or anything.”

U.S. Highway 163 could potentially be undergoing some significant changes in the coming years if a bypass from the north of Oskaloosa would connect into highway 163 west of Oskaloosa, creating a bypass from the north of Oskaloosa to the south of Oskaloosa.

“Is that map from efforts of a work session from the supervisors back in October, November 2018?” asked Groenendyk.

“I made copies of what was provided to us by the county engineer,” added Searle. “This is not the full map drawing, but it shows that area and the vicinity of the airport.”

Mark Groenendyk said that on the proposed service road that would pass through the airport to facilitate the movement of agricultural machinery, “I think that all of the supervisors have agreed, so far to this point, that a service road is not going to be feasible for the county’s needs of secondary roads.”

Groenendyk added that the service road, “This would probably be the closest thing we’ve come to mitigating the loss of 220th [Street].”

One of the plans the supervisors are currently advocating for, besides the relocation of the airport, is sending traffic down Independence Avenue from 220th to 235th Street.

Groenendyk said that 235th Street would require work to accommodate the traffic it would be asked to handle. That construction work would come at a cost. “It would be our hope that [inaudible] equipment would gravitate south to 235th Street and be able to cross over on 163 safely.”

If the U.S. Highway 63 northern bypass happens, those plans would include a bridge for Independence Avenue that crosses over U.S. Highway 163. If that were to take place, farm equipment wouldn’t be exposed to the traffic of the four-lane highway.

The U.S. 63 project isn’t yet on the Iowa DOT’s 5-year plan, and no time frame is currently available that would indicate when or if the project would take place.

“Who pays?” asked SCRAA Chair Jim Hansen.

“I believe in the contract it’s the cities that are responsible for the financial obligation,” answered Groenendyk. “That’s my understanding from what the attorneys have told me.”

SCRAA Board member Dave Barnes asked if the plan to reroute traffic to 235th was reliant upon the DOT plan for the bypass.

Groenendyk said he didn’t believe it had any reliance upon the bypass plan. “If the bypass would come, then you’d want to connect it to the bypass. If not, then connect it to Independence.”

Groenendyk offered to have some cost figures developed for the potential cost of the rerouting of traffic onto 235th Street.

“We would need a proposal from the county on what exactly you are proposing,” said Pella City Manager Mike Nardini. “As far as the upgrade, what the scope of the project is so we can evaluate it.”

“You guys [county] sent this over, so I’d assume there was going to be a cost estimate with it, outlining what you expected to have done, and we could react to it,” said Oskaloosa City Manager Mike Schrock. “I think the important thing that Jerry has mentioned is that the environmental assessment has a mitigation in it. We’re not necessarily talking about what we could have been talking about years ago if the county had been at the table from the beginning. Then we could have been talking about potentially having an FAA-funded project as a partnership. Then it does fall back on the cities, and I think that’s why our counsels will have to get involved heavily and discuss that. Just to be frank, you guys missed the boat.”

‘I’m just going to go back to the county missed the boat. On July 1 of 2013, our former engineer accepted and sent a letter to the SCRAA Board,” Groenendyk said. “I believe I made the comments after the environmental assessment was read in the fall of 2016, and you called me to have a work session based on this letter and comments. It was our understanding that the supervisors were going to be presented with a mitigation option. And so the county’s not missed the boat. I think you can ask every supervisor here, even before us, nothing’s even been presented to even accept a mitigation offer. I think this meeting is called because our counsel called your counsel and said we need to get together and work on this. We are the ones that are moving forward with this.”

“I’m not trying to debate whether or not we’re gonna try to resolve a matter. It’s just unfortunate because the environmental assessment, which was approved and closed out, doesn’t have a mitigation option like this. And so it’s frustrating for me because, as a party of this agreement, the city is, there was a potential to bring federal funds in this that saves all the taxpayers money, within this area,” added Schrock. “Because we didn’t have those conversations earlier, and there was no objection within the public comment and the environmental assessment that talked about this mitigation, the FAA approved it.”

“That’s where I get upset, so I apologize if I offended you by saying that you missed the boat. I do want to figure out how we can proceed, but we’ve got to understand what you’re expecting the cities to do because, in a lot of ways, we feel like we’ve followed that process to get input. There was no formal objection included in the environmental assessment,” added Schrock. “How do we move it forward?”

“Let’s see what the scope of this is. If you’re asking for minimal improvements, we’re going to have to share that as cities. There won’t likely be federal funding that will assist us with that. So that hurts,” Schrock added.

“But there was formal comments and complaints about before the environmental assessment went out,” added Groenendyk. “I wrote them. We had a work session to try and resolve this. Nothing was added. The supervisors never approved any mitigation, before the environmental assessment. Why was there no mitigation action brought forward to mitigate and approve before the environmental assessment? We could have had federal funding.”

“Could I ask a question, Mr. Groenendyk, Chairman Groenendyk please,” Nardini said. “Did you submit an official comment for the environmental assessment from the board?”

“I was not elected at that time,” responded Groenendyk. “It was from the public.”

“Ok, so it was from the public, but there is no official comment from the supervisors?” Asked Nardini.

“It was brought to the attention that there was no mitigation action accepted by the supervisors before this environmental assessment,” added Groenendyk.

“My understanding is mitigation action was the service road in the environmental assessment. That’s done from a work session done in December of 2016,” Nardini said.

“I stand by Mike too. We would need to consider this as something that defines the scope of what you’re proposing,” added Nardini.

“All I’m saying is you can look in our minutes, there’s no action brought before the supervisors to approve anything to date,” Groenendyk said. “If everyone missed the boat, everyone missed the boat. As a public commentor then, as a public citizen, it was brought before the attention that there is no mitigation actually been accepted by the supervisors in that environmental assessment.”

“So if it was a miscommunication or what, I brought it before the attention that this letter has not been followed as of yet,” added Groenendyk.

“This discussion gets a little bit into the battle you guys are having right now,” said Hansen. “That particular battle is, personally, as a taxpayer, both in Mahaska County and in the city of Oskaloosa, I’m particularly frustrated by it. Because I’m paying for both sides.”

“Yep,” said Groenendyk.

“And I don’t like that,” Hansen continued. “Everybody around the square owns property. Everywhere, as far as you can see from this room (3rd floor of the courthouse) is paying for both sides of that lawsuit. That money, you could make something with that money. You could do something with that, what I would call wasted money. I don’t think we need to argue about who got notice to what, your lawyers will do that in court. They’ll figure that out. I don’t care. I think it is reasonable, however, to get an estimate of what’s being proposed here, so at least we can have something to look at right now. And I don’t know who’s going to pay. I don’t know the cost of that.”

“There has been no studies done,” Groenendyk said of estimating the cost to move traffic to 235th Street.

“The EA (environmental assessment) does say this bypass, I’ll call it a bypass, around this runway was approved by the FAA. If we’re going to try to do something else, and if it makes sense for everybody, let’s figure out what it costs and take a look at it and see what the hit is going to be. It could be a 10 million dollar hit to these guys; it could be a 1 million dollar hit. I don’t know. But that is what I would propose as a step. I don’t know what the cost (is) to get that done,” said Hansen. “Maybe the county could see if they could get that accomplished.”

“We can ask our engineers to give us a rough estimate,” said Groenendyk.

“It’s hard to take action if you don’t have some sort of cost idea,” added Barnes.

Nardini asked Groenendyk when a proposal might be made available for consideration.

It was decided that the groups would gather again to review the proposal from the county on March 4, 2019.

Posted by on Feb 8 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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