Local family in jeopardy of losing home, land to new U.S. Highway 59
Maybe the shock of losing his rural home to the new U.S. Highway 59 freeway has worn off Steve Krysztof, but the reality is hitting even harder.
Krysztof, who has 50 acres just east of the present U.S. 59, a custom-built home and a lifestyle with his wife and four teen-age daughters that he cherishes, will see it all bulldozed if the newest "preferred alternative" for a new freeway happens.
"What am I going to do?" Krysztof said Monday, a week after the surprise announcement by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) that the agency, along with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), had changed gears and decided against the freeway being located a mile east of U.S. 59 as previously stated.
"It's going to be tough with the how and where to replace that property," he said. "Those places along the blacktop are irreplaceable."
There were plenty of tears shed the day of the announcement. That gave way to another emotion the next day the will to fight. And, he says there's a new emotion, a new feeling of despair everyday. But, there's also a big question.
"I don't know what I need to do," said Krysztof.
KDOT and the FHWA say there's still a public comment period on the project until Jan. 24, 2003. But, is that really the case? Like so many people, Krysztof read the words from KDOT touting the comment period, but also stating "that it's doubtful the decision will be changed."
"We want public comment, but anything you say won't change our mind. What do you mean, why are you wasting our time?" he said about the quote. "Up until I read that in the paper I thought I was dealing with intelligent engineers. I would like to be a mouse in their office and see what morale is like.
"I've talked to these people on the phone, in person and at public meetings. They always said it only made sense to put the freeway a mile east of 59 highway. Now this," said Krysztof. "They are standing behind this decision despite it not being what anyone in the state says."
And maybe that's what burns even deeper for the long-time rural Baldwin resident common sense.
"Right now I feel very disappointed in the system, the highway department," he said. "I'm one of those that believe government agencies will protect and serve us. We send our tax dollars off to them and I expect them to do what's right.
"It just comes down to common sense," said Krysztof. "They've said we're going to spend $11 million more than we could. What kind of agency do we have working for us?"
The new "preferred alternative" will cost $210.3 million, displace 33 homes and eight businesses. The alternative a mile east of U.S. 59 would cost $199.4 million, displace 11 homes and two businesses. KDOT officials have said there was no "bright shining star" to help decide between the two alternatives.
With the state facing revenue deficits of more than $312 million which is forcing budget cuts almost across the board, Krysztof can't believe that the more expensive alternative was chosen.
"We are struggling as a nation and state to make it," he said. "We're hacking away at education and social services. Then we have an agency that's saying we'll spend another $11 million that we don't have to. 'We don't care' that's what they're telling me with this response."
He also knows it's much more than just his place involved and also knows that people along the proposed route a mile east of U.S. 59 would be feeling the way he is if that had continued to be the preferred alternative.
"This just isn't about us and our house," said Krysztof. "There are 32 other. I know there are families and farms over on the other alternative, too. It just comes down to common sense and this isn't it."
He doesn't know what he and others next to U.S. 59 will do next. He's open to suggestions.
"I'm scrapping," Krysztof said. "Find me a tree to wrap around."