There was a bit of good news when the Great Bend City Council Monday night heard an update on the beleaguered Park Street bridge over the Lischevsky Ditch east of Great Bend.
The news followed a meeting Monday afternoon between the landowner whose property was isolated when the bridge was condemned and the city’s on-call engineering firm Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita. They reached an agreement whereby the city could purchase an easement at the northern end of the property.
This would allow entry to the ground and eliminate the need to replace the span, which crosses the ditch about a quarter mile east of town on the south side of the parcel.
“Our recommendation has changed,” Interim City Administrator George Kolb said. Replacing the bridge at a cost of around $150,000 was first on the council’s Jan. 2 agenda, but council members questioned the cost and legalities of the issue and tabled it.
Monday night, the council authorized Kolb, City Attorney Bob Suelter and Mayor Joe Andrasek to negotiate a price for the 50-foot easement with the property owner. Suelter said the total cost of this would likely not surpass $40,000, including $20-30,000 for the land and the cost to install cattle guards, move fences and fix gates.
An appraisal still needs to be done, Suelter said.
“With this, they will have access,” Suelter said. “We will just do away with the bridge.”
This will be a permanent easement, Suelter said. But, it will for use by the city and impacted landowners use only.
The city had $40,000 budgeted for the project and would have had to come up with more funds to replace the bridge. However, this amount should be enough to cover the new cost.
Any proposed purchase will have to come back before the council for approval.
On Jan. 2, Interim City Administrator George Kolb reported that Wichita Concrete Pipe of Wichita had submitted a bid to repair the condemned bridge at a cost not to exceed $149,500. The bridge provided access across the ditch to land owned by the Dorothy Morrison Charitable Trust, and it is the city’s understanding that it is contractually obligated to replace the rickety span.
The old bridge, which was deemed unsafe last summer, was placed over the channel to provide the only access to the farm land when the drainage ditch was established in the late 1930s. The farmer who works the ground now wants to farm it this spring had been granted access via another property owners land, but that is no longer an option.
However, it was suggested by council members that other local contractor options be explored with L&M Contractors. It was also questioned if we were obligated to provide the bridge.
The Lischevsky Drainage Ditch was designed and built in the late 1930s as a part of a Public Works Administration (PWA) project. This project was financed partially by the city and partially by the United States government.
It provides drainage to the northeast portion of Great Bend via a drainage ditch from north of 24th and Frey down the west side of Frey Street to just south of 21st Street where it crossed Frey Street to the east side.
The ditch then ran south to 16th Street where it was taken southeasterly to the north side of Park Street extended. At Park Street extended, the ditch continued east eventually curving south to the Wet Walnut Creek and the Arkansas River. This project also raised Frey Street to allow the ditch to accommodate more water.
Before it was built, the Dorothy Morrison Trust property had access to Frey Street by a farm drive only on the north side of Park Street extended. The real estate needed for this project was a 30-foot wide tract taken by eminent domain.
As a result, the Morrison Trust land was cut off from any public road access. To mitigate the damage, the plans called for a bridge.
Suelter believes city crews completed repairs to the bridge to make it usable approximately 20 years ago.
Since the bridge’s deterioration, access has been arranged by the city. The first arrangement was access was across the property to the east.
The farmer with crops on the Morrison Trust land would cross at the north end of the property to the east and across the north side. When that land was purchased by the new owner, it was fenced and the owner determined that access would no longer be allowed.
Then, the city arranged access from the north. When the crop on the property to the north was changed to alfalfa that access was terminated.
The Morrison Trust had requested that the bridge be reestablished to allow their farmer access, Suelter said.
“It is my opinion that the city must provide access to the Morrison Trust property,” Suelter said. “The city’s project essentially cut of the real estate from street access except by this bridge.”
The bridge was specifically constructed to provide this access. “The city staff is appreciative of the neighboring landowner allowing access to this real estate for the last few years. However, it is not the adjacent landowners duty to do so.”
Hence, “it is the city’s obligation to provide access to the Dorothy Morrison Trust to the real estate owned by the Trust.”
The easement solution meets this obligation and saves the city money, he said.