July 31, 2014

Eilert presents State of the County Address

Mark Taylor
mtaylor@gardnernews.com
The KC Logistics Hub in Edgerton was a highlight of Johnson County Commission Chair Ed Eilert’s State of the County Address on March 27.
Eilert said the project is 50 percent complete and is due to open in late 2013.
“There are about 150 construction workers, of which 90 percent are local hires,” he said.
A component of the intermodal logistics park is a new $33 million interchange at Homestead Lane and Interstate 35 that will provide highway access to the complex.
The intermodal logistics park is expected to generate more than 17,000 vehicle trips including 7,000 tractor-trailers at build-out.
The interchange will feature a “diverging diamond” design and will be the first of its kind in Kansas.
A diverging diamond interchange diverts traffic to the opposite side of the road to reduce the number of turning contact points for high volume traffic.
Local and state officials broke ground on the interchange site earlier this month and construction is slated to start in the spring.
“Fifty workers will be building the new interchange,” Eilert said. “KDOT estimates the $30 million investment in the interchange and other nearby road improvements will provide more than $600 million in economic impact to Johnson County and the metropolitan region.”
Eilert said that, at build-out, the intermodal logistics park is expected to create 7,471 new jobs in Edgerton, 12,180 new jobs in Johnson County and more than 13,200 direct and indirect new jobs in the state.
“It proves that Johnson County remains open for business, for economic development and for job creation now and in the years ahead,” he said.
Regarding county government, Eilert said spoke about efforts in recent months to streamline government in the face of declining revenues and budget shortfalls.
A report by the Matrix Group last year analyzed the structure of the county government and recommended consolidating six departments and one division.
“These consolidations and budget cuts within these departments have resulted in more than $1 million in current savings with additional savings that are ongoing in future budget cycles,” Eilert said.
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) also took proactive measures to head off future budget shortfalls by initiating a voluntary early retirement program for employees.
“The early retirement program was accepted by 175 employees,” Eilert said. “The projected savings is estimated at $5.5 million depending on how many positions we are able to leave vacant.”
Eilert said property appraisals are expected to hold steady for the next budget cycle but 2012 sales tax receipts are projected to increase by 5 percent over last year.
“There’s another side of the financial outlook,” he said. “The housing market and construction that have long been a major part of our local economy, but both key industries remain in flux. Mortgage registration fees, another significant source of county revenue, stood at $11.6 million at the end of last year. That is down 37 percent from $16.4 million in 2007.
“The BOCC and staff have focused the past two years on addressing the budget gap the county was facing.  At the direction of the BOCC, our goal is to eliminate the projected deficit by bringing county spending within current revenues, sooner than later.
“And we are on target to complete that mission by the end of the 2014 budget cycle.”

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