Harvey County West Park has drawn a lot of attention in recent years because of flooding and erosion. A combination of the two required the Road and Bridge Department to take on a bank restoration project to preserve a stretch of road near the north entrance of the park, off N.W. 36th Street, within the past two years.

Now, another issue tied to flooding has the county looking at replacing Bridge M-7.6 (along N.W. 36th Street, near the north entrance of West Park) in the near future. Road and Bridge superintendent Jim Meier brought the proposed project before the Harvey County Commission on Tuesday.

The bridge in question was built in the 1970s, so a replacement would update the design. Currently, the 180-foot bridge creates an issue with debris pile-up, partly because of the piers used to support the multi-tiered structure. Updating the design, director of MKEC Engineering Consultants Karl Svaty noted the new bridge would be shorter (110 feet) using a design with winged abutments that would eliminate the need for piers and create a greater area of flow for the river and debris within — 2,000 square feet compared to 1,700.

"If you consider the realities of the situation, we think we've opened up the bridge quite a bit and are going to mitigate all these problems," Svaty said. "We essentially have a dam out there now."

Pilings under the bridge have had to be replaced a coupe of times since 2000, it was noted, due to corrosion as well as debris taking those pilings out. Creating a fully integrated concrete structure with greater flow through will eliminate some of those issues, along with the added benefit of requiring less maintenance.

While the plans for replacement will address the pile-up issues and eliminate river congestion under the bridge, Meier told commissioners the planned work won't do much to deter flooding in that area.

"The water is going to do what the water still does when we flood. We're still gonna see that area under water up there," Meier said.

Still, having better flow through was seen as an advantage, especially once it was clarified that clearing up the blockage will not necessarily increase velocity further down river — meaning there is no increased threat of erosion to the aforementioned bank restoration project.

"I think the main thing's getting those piers out of there so that flow can go through unobstructed," said commission chairman Randy Hague. "I think this is a no-brainer myself."

Commissioner Chip Westfall questioned what the progress is with the permits, with Svaty noting those have gone to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment with no perceived road blocks. Meier said the project is projected to be completed before Jan. 1, 2021.

In other business, the county commission:

• Was informed of new evidence-based program funding available that Community Corrections is seeking.

• Learned the Kansas Supreme Court is requesting two appointees to the 9th Judicial District nominating commission. Commissioner Ron Krehbiel has served on the commission since 2004. Per a commission resolution limiting appointments to three three-year terms, county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber recommended new appointees, as well as having a commissioner continue to serve.

• Heard an update on pending action at the Kansas Legislature, including one bill that would prevent local governments from joining class-action lawsuits and another that would impede local government control through new budgeting regulations.

• Was informed that the Department on Aging's RSVP Martin Luther King service project collected $1,400 worth of food and personal items for four local nonprofits.

• Learned that Harvey County Emergency Management continues to gain sponsors for its Safety Fair, with a number of speakers and mascots lined up to be on hand as well.

• Received an update on the community health needs assessment from health director Lynnette Redington, who indicated the survey will be closing soon and focus groups will soon start forming to help determine the health priorities in Harvey County for the next few years.

• Approved the appointments of Ryan Goertzen-Regier (food retail representative), Cavette Dake (senior representative) and Paula Sims (at-large representative) to the Harvey County Food and Farm Council, waiving second reading with the chair to sign. Goertzen-Regier and Dake will serve through December 2021, while Sims will serve through December 2020.

• Accepted the new contracted lease agreement (at a rate of $1,800 per month with a built-in annual 1.5% increase for the duration of the leases) with Hesston College for use of Hangar K at the Newton City-County Airport, authorizing the chair to sign at a later date. The new lease follows the trend of bringing the airport up to date with current market standards, with airport manager Brian Palmer also noting that 90% of the hangars are now under lease.

• Learned the airport will be hosting the Flying Farmers of America Conference and the Kansas Association of Airports conference later this year.

• Approved the appointment of Justin Stucky and reappointment of Carol Buller to the Harvey County Planning and Zoning advisory board and board of zoning appeals for three-year terms each, waiving second reading with the chair to sign.

• Accepted the bid for trucks and SUVs from Midway Motors, as well as a van bid from Davis Moore, for the Harvey County Sheriff's Office. All three were the lowest bids received (including trade-ins), with the truck bid totaling $73,157, the SUV bid totaling $81,724 and the van bid totaling $14,458.15. The staff will review the bids to make sure they meet specifications, with the sheriff given the authority to sign the contract.