For months now, the debate over ownership of a stretch of NW 36th Street in North Newton has held up some much needed road work. At Monday's meeting, the Harvey County Commission sought at least a temporary resolution to the issue.

Commissioner Randy Hague broached the subject during department reports, saying the discussion has been strung out too long and action needed to be taken to get the issue resolved immediately. Hague said discussions he has had on the issue show there was was a gentlemen's agreement between the county and North Newton to share ownership of NW 36th Street. Since Anderson Road was extended north, he said reports he have heard showed North Newton taking over the west stretch with the county to handle the east stretch (from Anderson Road to Highway 15).

Discussion of the ownership within this commission dates back to at least March of this year. Commissioners noted the initial action planned was to have the county handle road improvements. The question of ownership threw a wrench in the works, requiring the support of North Newton (something County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber had been trying to work out), but there are numerous issues that must be sorted out before a maintenance agreement can be established — which is why commissioner Chip Westfall suggested tabling the issue and addressing it as an official agenda item in the coming weeks.

"I agree with Randy," Westfall said. "We need to proceed and get this done, but there are sign-offs that have to happen."

Of the topics that need to be sorted out are a conditional use permit for a water tower on NW 36th Street that has not yet been approved, review of North Newton's drainage study and the impact the nearby Northwoods Plaza development would have on those issues and understanding what is in the road right-of-way that needs to be taken into consideration.

As the county does not officially possess that right-of-way, Swartzendruber also noted permission would have to be granted by North Newton prior to proceeding with any temporary improvements. Swartzendruber is working to secure that and county counselor Greg Nye (who also represents North Newton) said he believes North Newton City Administrator John Torline would be quick to reach an agreement for temporary patching.

Liability remains an issue tied to ownership, but there were concerns all around regarding continued safety issues related to NW 36th Street. Scott Seirer, of Vogts-Parga Construction, noted it is not only worrisome for the developers of Northwoods Plaza, but he pointed out that his family has been affected as well — with his daughter getting a flat tire from a pot hole on NW 36th. Harvey County Road and Bridge Superintendent Jim Meier was also eager to address those issues.

"For the sake of safety, could a decision be made today," Meier asked.

Meier noted he could very easily do some quick patching on NW 36th Street and that stretch of road could be added to the overlay schedule for next summer.

While the ownership of the road still needs to be sorted out, all parties were confident an agreement could be reached quickly between the city and the county to allow for the temporary maintenance work. The commission gave the Road and Bridge and administration departments permission to work out such an agreement as soon as possible.

"I think it's time we do something and quit sitting around and talking about it and discussing," said commission chair Ron Krehbiel.

In other business, the county commission:

Heard a report from new South Central Kansas Economic Development District Executive Director Steven Wilkinson about the ways in which the organization helps partner communities and how he intends to follow up with the commission to help offering those services in Harvey County — noting SCKEDD is already working on projects in the county communities of Newton and Walton.
Learned of a meeting of the Kansas Water Authority coming up this fall in McPherson, in case any commissioners would like to attend.
Was updated on the 3-D bow shot held at East Park over the weekend, with Ranger Derek Richling listing about 12 participants and 20 individuals total in attendance for the event.
Received comment from Jeremy Kindy during the citizen's forum, with Kindy questioning the openness of the discussion regarding the potential sale of Camp Hawk. Kindy searched through two years of commission meeting minutes and said he could find no prior mention of a sale of the property being discussed, with the same evidenced in the minutes from a September meeting of the parks advisory board in which the board questioned why there was no consultation from the commission on this issue. Kindy said it showed that "something is lacking in the government process."
Approved the chairman to sign an employment service agreement with Harvey/McPherson Counties Community Corrections after hearing a year-end report (including an 82 percent success rate for Harvey County) as well as a reinvestment grant proposal from Director Janet Cagle.
Tabled a discussion on the Whitetail Crossing Plat as Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell noted it had to be rewritten to restrict any building on Lot 6, which had been previously agreed upon by the planning commission.