School, city touch base on issues
Tonganoxie school and city officials Monday night discussed how they can work together to meet the city's needs as the population grows.
The annual joint meeting of city and school officials was held at Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse in downtown Tonganoxie.
Chief among the conversation was the school district's interest in building a new school. The district owns 80 acres near Pleasant and Washington streets.
The land, currently vacant and used for cross country meets, would be an appropriate location for construction of a school, said Richard Erickson, school superintendent.
Erickson said that for the last five months, school district patrons who participate in the district's facilities committee, have met monthly. The committee is open to anyone in the district, Erickson said.
Earlier this month, the committee toured the 2-year-old Glenwood Ridge Elementary School and the newly remodeled Basehor-Linwood High School.
"We're just trying to gather some information and to get some ideas right now," Erickson said. " I think we've taken that committee as far as we can."
Erickson said that in February he plans to ask the school board to take a look at some architectural services.
"Are we going to build in the future?" Erickson said. "We don't know, we're just trying to gather information."
Moreover, Erickson said now would not be a good time to build. He noted the county's 9-mill property tax increase.
"The timing isn't right," he said. "But we want to have our ducks in a row, if and when that time is right."
Erickson reminded the city council of the work the city put into the school's athletic facility, and said, "We're hopeful that you can help us with developing that 80 acres in the future, if that time comes."
Erickson specifically mentioned questions about roads, water and sewer.
Tonganoxie Mayor John Franiuk said the city would have to turn those questions over to the city engineer "to make sure when we give you the answers, we'll be able to move in a positive direction."
Pat Albert, a city council member, asked if the school district had considered contacting a developer.
"If you're not going to develop the whole 80 acres, developers are willing to do some of these infrastructure things for schools in return for being able to buy some of the property," Albert said. "There's other avenues too, rather than the city doing it."
Franiuk talked about the importance of drawing new industry and business into Tonganoxie.
"Right now we have a lot of good commercial sites and a lot of good industrial sites available for sale in the community," Franiuk said. " There's very little to stop people from buying the lots and starting construction immediately."
City council president Janet Angell said high-quality schools help attract new businesses.
"You talk about getting more industry in here to help pay taxes," Angell said.
But one of the things that get businesses in here is the thought of schools people look at schools when they think about moving to a community, so it's kind of a round-robin thing."
Franiuk, who said a nearby turnpike interchange would further help spur growth, recently received a letter from the Kansas Turnpike Authority.
"They have done a study on County Road 25," Franiuk said. "They feel that if there was an interchange there, it would pay for itself."