Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories about the Flanagan South pipeline project that is cross through Johnson County.
By KEVIN LYON
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – At its peak late last year, about half of the 3,000 Flanagan South pipeline project workers made the Warrensburg area their home.
These workers were excavating, welding and laying pipe from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. six days a week. All of those workers eating, living and relaxing around JohnsonCounty represented a boost to the local economy.
“We worked hard, we fought hard, to get the headquarters here,” said Tamara Long, the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce president. “For a while, they had all their administrative support and headquarters here.”
Enbridge had a liaison office set up in the JW Franklin building at 123 E. Gay St., but they have moved on as the actual pipeline construction moves into Oklahoma. The landscaping crew is set up near state Route 13 and 200 Road north of town. The staging area is set up on an 80-acre patch of land that was bought for the project last year.
Thousands of workers began arriving last spring, and business quickly ramped up as construction got going over the summer. Since the beginning of 2014, the number of workers has fallen from thousands to hundreds as Enbridge and US Pipelines rebuild the landscape around JohnsonCounty.
The pipeline owner, Enbridge, a Canadian company, contracted US Pipelines to construct the project. Katie Lange, a community relations consultant for Enbridge, said half the workforce was contract labor coming from as far away as Texas and Louisiana.
And these workers were fans of breakfast sandwiches and bacon and cheese glazed donuts at the Donut Cafe and Bakery in Warrensburg. Pipeline workers even helped prompt the store to close at 5 p.m. instead of 4 p.m.
“We had 15 to 20 percent more business than usual,” said Lacey Tackett, a supervisor at the Donut Cafe and Bakery. “It’s been amazing.”
Both the Warrensburg and JohnsonCounty governments helped Enbridge and US Pipelines with everything from selecting a site for their headquarters to finding housing for their workers.
“A lot of workers have mobile homes,” said Marvin Coleman, the Warrensburg Public Works director. “So, they filled up a lot of the trailer parks around here.”
With a deadline set for mid-2014, most of the pipeline workers have already moved on to Oklahoma. The landscape restoration will continue for longer than that, which means pipeline workers will be in JohnsonCounty for months to come.
The benefits of an oil pipeline don’t come from a temporary job boost alone. Enbridge will be paying utility fees on the pipeline.
“They just sent in a $30,000 check this week,” said Bill Gabel, JohnsonCounty presiding commissioner. “They’re a really good asset here.”
Jaegaer Tire of Warrensburg benefited from the project as well, selling tires by the dozens to US Pipelines for their trucks and trailers.
“We sold around 200 tires to them,” said Dewayne Jackson, the store’s owner and operator. “They had a 30-day account and they paid regular as clockwork.”