Pratt commissioners hear concern about pipeline damage

Gale Rose
Pratt County Counselor Tyson Eisenhauer said he did not think the county sending a letter in support of landowner liability protection from pipeline problems would help and would hurt their cause at the county commission meeting last week.

Kansas landowners in the path of a proposed pipeline are seeking assurances from the pipeline company, Liberty Midstream, a subsidiary of Phillips 66, that if someone on the property should damage the pipeline, the result would not be the loss of everything to the landowner.

The pipeline would run across the northeast edge of Pratt County with a total of 85 miles through Kansas.

Greg Glunz, chairman of Pro Kansas, a newly formed citizens organization, and other members of the group, brought the situation to the attention of the Pratt County Commissioners at their Feb. 10 meeting. Pro Kansas seeks support from the county in the form of a letter.

Glunz said if someone on the property damaged the pipeline, it could result in millions in liability that could wipe out a family farm.

"This liability concern is for everybody," Glunz said. "We don't think our farm or ranch should be at risk if someone has an accident. We shouldn't be liable for everything."

Pro Kansas has been working with people in Wyoming who are dealing with the same pipeline but have worked out clause in contracts to protect the landowner in the event of damage to the pipeline. Glunz said Pro Kansas is working hard to get the same kind of assurances for their property. Wyoming had a little more time to negotiate with Phillips 66 but Kansas landowners have had to quickly learn what needs to be done to get the necessary language in the contracts. Pro Kansas started in December and had a couple of meetings in January with a deadline to complete contracts by Feb. 14.

If landowners are unable to reach an agreement and sign a contract, they could face condemnation of their property. Pro Kansas was told by Phillips 66 that the language in the contract would be agreeable to landowners. But the language they extended to Wyoming landowners is extremely different than what was presented to Pro Kansas.

Pratt County Counselor Tyson Eisenhauer said he didn't think the county sending a letter would help and would hurt their cause.

"I think it would be detrimental if we sent a letter," Eisenhauer said.

He recommended the Pro Kansas counsel work with the Phillips 66 counsel in this matter.

In other commission business, Doug Freund, county road and bridge supervisor, said he is working with the Vestas, a wind energy company, on a road use agreement in Pratt County to use south 100th Avenue to haul wind tower components to Medicine Lodge.

Freund said he has compared the proposed agreement with agreements in Kiowa County and has been in touch with Barber County Attorney Gaten Wood about the matter.

South 100th Avenue is a black top road and Freund has communicated with Kirkham Michael, county engineering consultants, about issues of moving that much equipment on a black top surface.

Eisenhauer said he would need to have a full contract form before any agreement would be signed. Freund will continue to work on the matter and present further information at a future meeting.

Vestas is working with BP, an energy company.

Eisenhauer is also working on delinquent property tax. Seven more delinquent property tax amounts have been paid, bringing in $30,000 to the county. Two others have paid court costs. So far, 44 papers have been served for delinquent taxes with 20 more to go.

If property tax is not paid, the property will go up for sale. At this time, no sale date has been set and won't be set for quite a while, Eisenhauer said.

Stan Reimer, executive director for the Vernon Filley Art Museum, shared information on growth and expansion at the museum. As the museum activities grow, so does the cost to present new exhibits and classes.

Reimer requested the county continue to support as it has done in the past with a $5,000 donation.

The Kansas Art Industry visited the museum a year and a half ago. They were very impressed with the facility, exhibits and classes. They said 'the Filley is truly a crown jewel in Kansas.'

Over the past year, the Filley has added 16 programs and offers 21 art classes twice a year. Metal artist Dick Bixler does tours of his workshop and the museum. A group of 50 students from Medicine Lodge has visited the museum and another group from Haviland and Greensburg is scheduled to visit. Around 100 first graders visited the museum on Kansas Day.

The Lunch and Learn programs on Fridays are bringing in a lot of people. On the average, the museum welcomes 4,000 guests a year

The museum gift shop provides examples of area artists works. The gift shop committee has improved the the selection and that has increased their income.

Brittany Novotny is museum director and is a member of the Kansas Arts Commission. New to the staff is museum associate Alexandra Diel, a Stafford native who joined the staff in July 2019.

The museum sends out a tremendous amount of mailings and they have a strong presence on Facebook. An army of volunteers keep the museum operating and the finance committee including Daryl Stroda and Mike Johnston, work out a budget and stick to it.

"They run a tight ship," Reimer said.

The Filley is trying to raise $5,000 in new money by the end of the year. They have started an endowment fund with the South Central Community Foundation.

The Filley applies for grants each year and usually receive from $5,000 to $10,000 each year.