An underneath view of the Belvue Bridge (Courtesy Pottawatomie County Public Works)
Photo courtesy Pottawatomie County Public Works

Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee County commissioners came together Monday to negotiate matching funds for possible federal grants as they continue moving forward on repairs to the Belvue Bridge.

Wabaunsee County Attorney Tim Liesmann told both counties Monday that after a debriefing last week with the U.S. Department of Transportation, they received both some good and bad news.
“So the good news is that the career staffers at USDOT gave us the highest rating, put us in the top 30 percent and put us before that final senior review team. Obviously the bad news is we didn’t make it through that cut,” Liesmann said.
In December, the two commissions agreed to move forward on an $11 million project that would essentially replace the steel on the bridge. With inflation, that project is now up to $14 million. On Monday, the two sides agreed to a cheaper $9 million rehabilitation project, with both counties increasing their matches, since some of the design work is already completed and could essentially get started sooner.
“I would propose we do the $9 million with the 10 percent contingency on top, with the 30 percent match,” said Pottawatomie County commissioner Greg Riat.
The alternative $9 million rehab project would reportedly extend the bridge’s life approximately 50 years. Doing the more expensive replacement would add 100 years according to engineer estimates.
Under the new terms, Pottawatomie County would contribute roughly $2.4 million in local matching funds. Wabaunsee County would contribute $300,000.
Pottawatomie County Administrator Chad Kinsley cautioned that once work begins, it is possible that it could end up being more costly for both counties.
“There is a potential when they rip that deck off that goes from $9 million to $14 million,” he said.
If that happens, that $5 million difference would have to be picked up at the local level.
The two counties plan to approach their Senate delegation. Wabaunsee County commissioner Nancy Hier said Monday she’s already been in touch with a representative of Sen. Jerry Moran’s office in Manhattan about getting political support for the bridge.
Commissioners should hear by the fall whether they will receive any federal dollars to help repair the bridge.

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