City of Belle Plaine, Kansas
Belle Plaine becomes ‘Quiet Little Town’ with silencing of train horns
A ribbon cutting was held Monday, April 10, in recognition of the completion of the railroad Quiet Zone. From left are Police Chief Bill Berry, Mike McKay (civil engineer/steering committee consultant); Doug Morley (Valley State Bank); Tina Friend (Chamber of Commerce); Robin Macy (steering committee/steward Bartlett Arboretum); Jon Holmes (Valley State Bank); Gordon Fell (steering committee); and Mayor Greg Harlan.
Residents in the city of Belle Plaine are celebrating the silencing of the 50-plus train horns which traverse this small south central Kansas community each day.
It was nearly a decade-long effort to create the federally regulated Quiet Zone, but as of April 5 the trains are a muted sound from the distant crossings outside the city. The 98-decibel horns are silenced now as they travel through the three crossings which impact the west side of the community and Belle Plaine Township.
The effort to create the quiet zone began with a joint effort of the Bartlett Arboretum and the City of Belle Plaine. The committee was fortunate to have the assistance of Mike McKay, a retired civil engineer whose entire career centered on noise and zoning on both the local and federal levels. McKay is a rural resident of the community and a frequent visitor at the Bartlett Arboretum. The group worked on options and began educating the community on the process.
Additional partners in the project were Sumner County and Belle Plaine Township.
The work on the quiet zone was split into small projects. The first step was the closing of a crossing which had difficult sight lines. Burlington Northern Santa Fe paid the city $40,000 for the closing, which covered the cost of landscaping and street work at that crossing, and the delineators for the next phases.
A Kansas Department of Transportation Cost Share grant, a Community Service Tax Credit effort, including a significant donation by Valley State Bank, and other donations to the Arboretum provided funding for the highway work and design of the Kansas Highway 55 crossing in 2021. That crossing features a raised median and delineators to keep vehicles from going through lowered crossing arms.
The quiet zones are set up with supplemental safety measures to compensate for the train horns. Those provide an enhanced physical barrier to enhance safety.
The final phase of the project was a separate Quiet Zone at the 8th and 100th Avenue crossings. For that effort, the city hired Kit and David Huntley, owners of Quiet Zone Solutions and Railway Safety, LLC.
“We were more than pleased with the knowledge and effort Quiet Zone Solutions brought to the table,” said Mayor Greg Harlan. “They were able to lead the process through the Federal Railroad Administration levels when BNSF protested a portion of the final quiet zone.”
On April 4 that Quiet Zone took effect and the noise levels are significantly lower.
“We are now a ‘Quiet Little Town,’” Harlan said.
Utility work to occur in April
Evergy will begin moving utility poles along K-55 (4th Avenue) the week of April 3, with work expected to take up to five weeks. This is prep work for the rehabilitation project coming on the highway.
Residents should prepare for short power outages as a result of this work. Evergy does plan to let those affected know in advance, as much as possible. For outage alerts from Evergy, click here.
City purchases land for water tower, treatment plant
The City of Belle Plaine closed Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 on the purchase of 14.4 acres of land on the south side of 90th Avenue North, approximately a half mile east of the city limits.
The property will allow the city to build a new nitrate removal plant and water tower. Geo-technical testing of the site has been completed and the land is expected to perform well for the construction project.
Work to purchase property for the plant and tower began nearly three years ago, with multiple sites considered before the purchase was made. During that time the engineering work for the new treatment plant, tower, and water well rehabilitation, and a future infrastructure phase of pipeline replacement has been finalized. In September that plan was approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
In February, the city will apply for a Community Development Block Grant of up to $600,000 to go toward the first phase of construction. Another $1 million in loan forgiveness is being sought through the USDA Rural Development program.
Construction should begin later in 2023 or early in 2024 and will take a minimum of one year to complete. With the completion of the project, Belle Plaine will enjoy an enhanced quality of life and a healthier future for its residents.
The engineers' conceptual map of the walking path through Watson Park and along Logan is shown above. The solid line was approved in the grant. The dotted lines were alternative plans and were not approved. In addition, sidewalks along the south side of 4th from Main to Merchant were approved in the $338,155 grant.
Belle Plaine receives $338,155 for walking path
and sidewalk improvements
The City of Belle Plaine has been awarded $338,155 in a state Transportation Alternatives Grant for sidewalk improvements to provide a walking path in Watson Park and increased pedestrian safety in other areas.
The Kansas Department of Transportation grant will provide funding for a path in Watson Park that will loop around the ball diamonds for a safe off-street walking area.
More importantly, the path will link to Friend Street on the north, via the new pedestrian bridge at that location, and continue to the corner of 4th and Logan. At that corner it will meet sidewalks also being provided as part of a grant for rebuilding K-55 Highway.
“This section of the path will provide a space to keep pedestrians, including bicyclists, off of Logan,” said Mayor Greg Harlan, who added that the grant application was fully supported by all City Council and city staff members. “Having our children out of traffic, on a street with virtually no shoulders, is a major move to better safety.”
This section of the improvements will provide a lighted crossing beacon at 7th and Logan. The crossing will become ADA compliant and land on the southwest corner of the intersection, where the city already owns property.
The second portion of the project, with provide a path on the south side of 4th (K-55) from Merchant to Main. Crosswalks will be marked at both ends of the block.
“In the initial walk-through before the grant application was completed, the engineers emphatically said that this block of sidewalk is also crucial to the increased safety of our children,” said Maintenance Supervisor Ramon Lujan. “It provides another place for them to walk, whether going to school or to the park and pool in the summertime.”
The Transportation Alternatives program is associated with the Safe Routes to Schools program. Previous work by the Belle Plaine community to receive Safe Routes funding helped with this application, as there was proof that work is ongoing to improve the areas where people are walking. The grant application also fit the three pillars of the Transportation Alternative grant program – security, connectivity, and welcoming to the community.
The city will have to provide $84,539 in funding for the project. The money will come from the American Rescue Plan funds which the city received over the past two years. That funding was designed to help cities following the economic constraints of the Corona-virus pandemic.
The walking areas in this project will join sidewalks to be built in the project that is also slated to start in 2023 and rebuild K-55 Highway. The state added funding to the City Connecting Link Improvement Program, which will provide a walking path from Logan to Line. That path will create a marked, ADA-safe crossing at 4th and Logan and sidewalks on the north side of the street to Linden. From Linden to Line the sidewalks will be on the south side of the street.
“We are excited about the changes which will occur with these projects,” Harlan said. “It will dramatically improve the look and feel of our community and quality of life in Belle Plaine.”
The engineers' conceptual map of the walking path through Watson Park and along Logan, updated as a half-mile loop is shown above.
A list of Frequently Asked Questions on Belle Plaine's water issues can be found on the Water Page by clicking here.
NITRATE WARNING CONTINUES
Bottled water is available at City Hall for residents who are pregnant, nursing infants, have infants at home, or who have written orders from a health care provider.
The City of Belle Plaine continues under a nitrate warning, due to testing on April 4, 2023 which shows two of the three city water wells test above the highest federal level for safety from nitrate concentrations.
The City of Belle Plaine continues to take immediate action to reduce the amount of nitrate in the water. Lower volumes of water are being pumped for longer periods of time to help lessen the intensity of the nitrates. The well which consistently tests below the 10mg/L benchmark level continues to be utilized first and foremost for pumping water for the city's needs. However, the three wells mix for distribution, so a consistent nitrate level cannot be guaranteed. The city has purchased the land for the treatment plant and new tower. KDHE approval for the new system is anticipated for May, along with the announcement of the Community Development Block Grant award. The USDA Funding Letter of Condition is expected in June and advertising of the project to contractors should happen in July. Construction could begin in August, with completion of the process by August 2024.
2023 City Hall Holiday Schedule
New Year’s Day – Friday, January 2, 2023
Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Monday, January 16
President’s Day – Monday, February 20
Memorial Day – Monday, May 29
Independence Day – Tuesday, July 4
Labor Day – Monday, September 4
Veteran’s Day –Friday, November 10
Thanksgiving Day and Friday after – November 23 and 24
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day – Monday, December 25 & Tuesday, December 26
Report street light outages
Is a street light out in your neighborhood in Belle Plaine?
Gather the number of the pole (It starts with either A or B and has 5 digits and is about 9 feet up on the pole), and the approximate address of the pole. It can be reported to City Hall at 620-488-3433 or online at www.evergy.com You must click on "Outages" and then "Report Streetlight Outage" to enter the information.
401 N Merchant
PO Box 157
Belle Plaine, KS 67013
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