Wal-Mart Traffic Plan Looks Good To City

The Manhattan City Commission held a worksession Tuesday afternoon with representatives of Wal-Mart to discuss the traffic related to the proposed Wal-Mart redevelopment.

The Commissioners seemed to like the new plan. The complete drawing was in the July 11, issue of the Manhattan Free Press.

Traffic Engineer Ernie Peters showed the plan to the Commission and all three members of the Pottawatomie County Commission. Peters said the area would have a Bluemont extension and another entrance off McCall Road. The McCall Road entrance was a item the City Commission wanted the last time they met.

Other businesses in the area express support for the plan. Representatives from the American Legion, Ace Hardware and Roche's Family Hair Care attended the meeting.

A meeting with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) will take place next Tuesday in Topeka. KDOT told Peters that they will not allow any work to start without their approval on changes to Third Street and Bluemont.

Peters, will be joined by the City staff, Third Street owners engineer and a traffic engineer hired by the City, in talking to KDOT.

In another part of the meeting Joe Norton, Gilmore & Bell-Bond Counsel told the Commissioner there is a new way to pay for the $2 million plus road projects around the Wal-Mart store.

Norton said the 2002 Kansas Legislature passed a new tool for economic development for cities and counties in Kansas. The Kansas Transportation Districts taxing plan is similar to Benefit District that the City has used in Manhattan for years.

Only this District must be approved by 100 percent of the businesses that want the District. The Benefit District required 51% approval.

What is interesting about the Transportation District is that not everyone that receives a benefit needs to be in the District.

In other words if Wal-Mart wants to come into an area and fix the roads they can form a Transportation District and finance the project with an excise tax.

Wal-Mart told the Commission that they have used this method of financing in Missouri and it has work well. This is a big point with the City Commission because they have been put on notice by the Bond Rating Service that their debt is to high.

This gives the City a way out of spending millions in the area on roads but it lets the project to move forward.

Plans call for Wal-Mart to go before the Planning Board on August 19th, the City Commission on September 3 and 17 and the Final Plan Approval would be October 7th. Wal-Mart said they would have the store open in the spring of '03.