In other business Monday morning, the Barton County Commission:
• Approved a motion not to change a one-mile stretch of NE 210 Road between NE 30 and NE 40 avenues (about six miles northeast of Susank) to minimum maintenance. Union Township officials petitioned for the change since the road is only used occasionally. This would mean the road would be signed “travel at your own risk,” thus reducing the township’s liability. As required by state statute, the matter was forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission. However, the planning commission reviewed the request and recommended that the declaration not be made.
Also under discussion is the vacating portions of two roads in the same area – NE 210 Road from NE 20 Avenue to NE 30 Avenue and NE 210 Road from NE 20 Avenue west 1,700 feet. This matter was referred back to the Planning Commission to be examined as candidates for minimum maintenance rather than closure.
• Approved moving a radio repeater used by the Road and Bridge Department. In 2008, the repeater used for radio communications was moved from the county shop in Great Bend to the tower near Doonan GMC/Peterbilt east of Great Bend. It will be relocated to the Kansas Department of Transportation tower on 281 Highway, north of Great Bend. The move will allow better communications in the Road and Bridge department throughout the county. The projected cost is just under $11,500. This includes a load study of the KDOT tower, installation of an antenna and equipment, and moving the repeater itself. Dale Phillips, Road and Bridge director said this was particularly important as bad winter weather approaches.
The upgrading of the county’s radios to narrow band as mandated by the Federal Communications Commission made the change necessary.
• Ratified the Great Plains Development membership for 2012 at $5,534.80. Great Plains Development assists the county, and its cities, with Small Business Administration loan applications, Community Development Block Grant writing and economic development revolving loans. Bob Wetmore, co-director of Great Plains Development, said the agency covers 28 counties in southwest Kansas and is working with a number of projects in that area, include several in Barton County.
• Named Jessica Wilson, county financial officer, as the county’s Kansas Public Employees Retirement agent. The KPERS Act of 1961 provides for the designation of an agent for each participating employer through whom system transactions and communications are directed. In addition, this agent acts as a local contact for employees for Retirement System information, transactions, forms and publications.
The central part of the United States supplies grain to the entire nation. It can also supply wind energy.
However, “there is a disconnect,” said Adhar Johnson, regional outreach manager for Clean Line Energy Partners based out of Houston, Texas. The company is in the process of developing four multi-billion-dollar power transmission lines to meet this need.
One of those, the Grain Belt Express, will pass through Barton County, she told the Barton County Commission Monday morning.
The line will deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind energy from Ford County in western Kansas to communities in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and points farther east that have strong demand, she said. The energy will be transported via an approximately 700-mile overhead, high-voltage direct current transmission line at a cost of about $2 million per mile.
Clean Line is finishing its application to become a public utility as approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission. The KCC has already given a nod and now the company has to come up with a route which also has to meet state muster.
“This has been a long process,” Johnson said. Initial work started two years ago.
The next phase is to hold as series of public hearings for area residents and potential project vendors. Those will take place in January and give attendees their first glimpse at the proposed routes through the county and give a chance for input.
“This will mean a lot of new business for this part of the state,” Johnson said. The company’s goal is use as many local businesses as possible.
Depending on the type of poles used, there will be between four and seven per mile. They will stand about 100 feet.
Easement agreements will be negotiated with landowners, who will receive payments. Although the project has a 10-year tax abatement, the county will receive tax revenue from the project after that.
“The work will bring an influx of people to the area,” including 5,000 temporary constructions jobs and 500 permanent operational jobs, with some of those folks possibly coming from Barton County, she said. There is also the possibility that some vendors might come from the county as well.
And, she said, Clear Line will pay for any improvements to county roads that it needs.
When scouting routes for the line, Johnson said they tried to avoid cities, airports and sensitive environmental areas, such as Cheyenne Bottoms. The company is working with all state and federal agencies that might have a say in the project.
They will also try to parallel existing lines and other structures.
Johnson said this is the most efficient and cost effective technology to move large amounts of power over long distances due to its lower electricity losses and smaller footprint than comparable alternating current (AC) lines. The project should get regulatory approval by the end of 2014 and be completed by 2018.
The company is privately funding the line. Future costs will be paid for by the end users of the electricity.
Johnson was asked about the federal production tax credit which partially subsidizes the development of wind farms. The credit could be eliminated by Congress, making wind energy more expensive.
“This project is not dependent on that,” she said. Sure, the elimination of the credit will cause the price to increase and the construction of new facilities to slow, but the project will go on as planned.
County Administrator Richard Boeckman said the county has little say in the project. But, he said Clear Line has worked hard to involved local officials in the effort.