Let’s stop the progress until we know what we’re getting
To the editor:
The citizens of Washington, Clay, Dickinson, Marion, Butler, and Cowley counties have a new neighbor coming in the near future. This new neighbor, Keystone/TransCanada, is buying valuable easements in each county to connect the Keystone Pipeline System from Canada, with the ultimate goal of Cushing, Okla., and perhaps continuing on to the Texas Gulf Coast.
As new residents of six Kansas counties, Keystone/TransCanada has the right to expect the use of roads for construction on the project and will continue to use county roads in monitoring and maintenance activities during the life of the pipeline.
They will also want the security and protection provided by law enforcement, fire protection, sanitation, and all of the other services that counties provide to residents. There is a problem with our new neighbor: Keystone/TransCanada is claiming a property tax exemption for at least 10 years. They say it was provided by a law, KSA 79-227, which was passed in 2006. When this issue first came to light by action from the Dickinson County Commission, I made contact with Kansas State Senator Jay Emler, and he stated that while the law offered an exemption to pipelines, Keystone/TransCanada had not met the conditions imposed to claim the exemption.
This morning I spoke to Jim Prescott, a spokesman for Keystone/TransCanada, and he said that they do indeed have an exemption from property taxes in the six counties.
Keystone/TransCanada is a private, for-profit, foreign company that should have the ability to pay its fair share of property taxes. In an otherwise struggling economy, companies in the oil business have enjoyed record profits, and the future looks bright for their continuing success. I think we can clear up this misunderstanding with some communication between the Kansas Legislature and Keystone/TransCanada.
In the meantime, I propose that the governmental units in the six counties place a moratorium on road use agreements, conditional use permits, eminent domain proceedings, and any other pipeline-related permits until a satisfactory solution is found to the property tax problem.
I am a private citizen who wanted to make my opinion known to the main players in this issue, so I called them up on the phone for a chat.
The law that exempted the property taxes had its birth in the Senate and House Energy Committees seemingly without much consultation with the counties affected.
To discuss this issue, one can call the Chairman of the Kansas State Senate Energy Committee, Jay Emler, at (620) 241-2910 or Chairman of the Kansas House of Representatives Energy and Utilities Committee, Carl Holmes, at (620) 624-7361.
Harry E. Bennett
Put blame where blame is due
To the editor:
Headlines in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago stated the jail committee had violated the Open Meetings Act. I am not disputing these headlines. However, there is more to the story which was not reported.
This is not the fault of the news media because the rest of the story simply was not discussed during the commission meeting.
The jail committee and Danny Flynn, in particular, were very concerned about open meetings rules and how to proceed. I was contacted about the situation and asked what I thought. I was not sure either since the jail committee was advisory in nature, staffed by volunteers, and could not spend public funds.
I contacted two different sources and was advised that, due to the nature of the committee, they believed the open meetings rules did not apply. I advised the committee of what I had learned and based on “my” advice, they proceeded.
If there is any blame to be assigned for this violation, it must be assigned to me. The committee did all that could be expected of them to do the right thing.
Finally, I want to publically apologize to the committee for any harm this incident may have caused them as a group or as individuals.
Marion County Commissioner