Franklin County commissioners hear ideas for Juniper Dunes access

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 17, 2013 

Franklin County commissioners on Wednesday heard ideas from the county's engineer for three alternative access routes into Juniper Dunes that could save up to $1 million in construction costs.

"I like the direction you're going with the numbers," Commissioner Brad Peck told engineer Matt Rasmussen.

The county has been working with the federal Bureau of Land Management to solve the problem of people entering the publicly owned Juniper Dunes by trespassing on Peterson Road -- a privately owned gravel and dirt road.

One idea is to improve Peterson Road to make it a county road, but that plan stalled with the discovery of large irrigation pipelines a few feet below the surface. The cost of relocating those pipes -- about $1 million -- exceeds the $716,000 the BLM allocated for the project.

The total cost to improve Peterson Road and move the pipelines would total about $2.8 million.

Three alternatives presented by Rasmussen during Wednesday's meeting looked at other places where the road could be built to avoid moving the irrigation pipelines.

One option would cost about $2 million and involve extending a new road north from Pasco Kahlotus Road about a mile east of Peterson Road. Rasmussen said that option would require improvements to Pasco Kahlotus Road to make the new intersection safe for drivers. Those improvements are included in the cost estimate.

The two other alternatives each involve extending a new road from East Foster Wells Road to eventually link up with Peterson Road and lead into Juniper Dunes. Both would cost about $1.8 million, with the primary difference being how close the road is built to a new home and barn in the area.

The county plans to apply for a grant from the Federal Highway Administration that could cover most of the cost not paid by the BLM grant.

Commissioners asked Rasmussen to look at a couple of other alternatives, including building a road into Juniper Dunes from Kruse Road to the north, before making a decision.

Juniper Dunes, about 18 miles northeast of Pasco, contains a 7,100-acre fenced wilderness area, a 3,900-acre open area that's a popular local spot for picnicking and driving off-road vehicles, and a 8,600-acre environmental conservation area.

Also Wednesday:

w Commissioners unanimously approved a request from TRAC Manager Troy Woody to spend up to $270,000 from an economic development fund to make repairs and improvements at the event center. The fund currently has more than $900,000 available for projects identified in the county's economic development plan.

Woody said there are cracks and stains in some of the concrete that he'd like to fix, and he wants to spruce up the exhibit hall's exterior to make it more attractive.

Peck questioned a proposed $50,000 expense for Diamond floor polishing, asking whether making the floor more attractive would bring in enough business to justify the cost.

Woody said he also had balked at the cost, but Diamond polishing has a 20-year guarantee that ultimately could make it more cost-effective than shorter-lived but cheaper polishes.

Commissioners' approval of the TRAC expenditures excluded the floor polish, which remains pending.

w Commissioners opened five bids for construction of the Franklin County jail expansion and Pasco Municipal Court. The engineer's estimate for the project was about $18.6 million. The bids ranged from $18.7 million to $19.5 million.

Commissioners are expected to award the contract at next Wednesday's meeting.

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