Pilsen road is an opportunity

Veterans Day is around the corner, and that means another pilgrimage to Pilsen in honor of Emil Kapaun. This time it’s the Archdiocese for the Military Services. And once again, a bunch of visitors will be traveling down a road that does not put Marion County’s best foot forward. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but it’s an important subject, not just for Pilsen, but for Marion. Marion is the natural portal to Pilsen, but only if Remington Rd. is suitable for unfamiliar drivers.

A few weeks ago, I heard a rumor that someone was planning to build a hotel or restaurant or both in Pilsen to accommodate pilgrims. The rumor was nothing more than wishful thinking, but Pilsen needs amenities nearby. While I investigated the rumor, County Commissioner Dan Holub told me it was a non-starter. A hotel, even a small one, would need better water and wastewater infrastructure than Pilsen can offer.

If and when Kapaun is canonized as a saint, there will be visitors from all over the world wanting to know more about him. If Remington Rd. is in good condition, they’ll seek hotel rooms and meals in Marion. If the road stays a dusty gravel road, it’s just as likely that the museum and its artifacts will be moved to Wichita. There is more at stake, economically, than I think most people realize.

So where do we stand? Kansas Department of Transportation has made it clear that the road doesn’t meet standards of traffic amounts to get extra state funding. And state Sen. Jay Emler has indicated the political climate in Topeka isn’t friendly to such projects right now. (Incidentally, state Rep. John Barker still hasn’t responded to questions about the road, three weeks after multiple attempts were made to contact him.)

There are reasons to be hopeful that not all of the burden to rebuild Remington Rd. will fall onto the county, though. Marion Economic Development Director Roger Holter seems to understand the opportunity Pilsen presents, and he has told me he plans to look into grant opportunities to help with the road. And at the county level, we can count on Holub to advocate — persistently! — for the people who drive Remington Rd. on a regular basis. I’m sure people have called Holub quite a few things in his time as county commissioner, but quitter probably isn’t one of them.

— ADAM STEWART

 

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