Grant to fix Elm, Locust erosion approved
A state grant approved Friday will pay for 70% of long-needed repairs to a culvert on Elm St. and a box bridge on Locust St. plus new curbing on those streets from Lawrence St. to Main St. in Marion.
Marion will pay up to $69,810, plus engineering costs associated with making the request. As much as half the city share may come from in-kind services instead of cash.
Officials have not disclosed a timetable for the project.
Marion requested the grant Aug. 22, offering to pay 30%. An earlier request, offering to pay 20% and including an unrelated project on Walnut St., was rejected last year.
State announcement of the grant mentioned that the state would pay 50% instead of 70%, but that appears to have been in error or represent an average among 14 projects, most of them much larger, approved statewide.
Traffic cones recently were placed in the 100 block of Locust St. where a retaining has been endangered by more than a decade of growing cracks and gaps.
A bridge box beneath the wall remains structurally sound, according to a city engineer, but erosion has left as much as eight feet of it hanging in the air.
Pavement along Elm St. has sunk above a collapsed culvert pipe beneath the pavement.
Water leaking around the culvert and broken curbing eroded substantial portions of the the east bank of Luta Creek, causing a series of collapses in 2019.
A $219,750 federal grant replaced a portion of curbing and rip-rapped the creek bank. The city’s $73,250 portion to that project was from in-kind contributions of material, transportation, and labor.
The new project has been included on the city’s capital improvement budget.
The successful grant request indicated that any borrowing needed would come under that budget. However, the project was not listed as a priority under the latest version of that budget.
The draft budget instead lists as priorities streets to largely unsold lots in Marion’s industrial park. Also listed are a project already completed, street repairs near the county transfer station and VFW post, and a portion of Kellison St. from the industrial park to a proposed housing development.
The housing development was placed on hold this summer after confusion over whether it was planned for an ineligible area of the industrial park or for its intended location north of school district ball diamonds.
With a relatively small amount needed for the city’s share of the Elm and Locust project, bonding may not be needed.
If bonding is needed, state law would require a referendum. A pending charter ordinance could eliminate referendums on this and all future capital improvement bonds.
It also would allow the city council to approve borrowing for more than just street and building repairs and give the city administrator, rather than a city engineer, authority to determine which projects have priority.
Those changes have been challenged under the Kansas Constitution by a petition certified as sufficient. The council has yet to decide whether to conduct a referendum on the ordinance or drop it in response to the petition.
If the council chooses to schedule an ordinance referendum, it would delay any referendum on borrowing for this project.
Unless a charter ordinance referendum approved the ordinance, a second referendum would then be needed to approve borrowing for the project.