Commissioner pushes for 1-cent tax
Leavenworth County voters will decide on sales tax in april 5 election
Leavenworth County needs to have turnpike access, says county commissioner Dean Oroke.
And, according to Oroke, the way to get that is to extend the county's one-cent sales tax.
Oroke was among those who spoke Saturday at a candidates' forum at Tonganoxie's VFW post home.
The sales tax, which originally took effect in 1996, will sunset at the end of 2006. Funds from that tax, which in 2004 totaled $5,428,517, were dispersed to the county, as well as to Basehor, Easton, Lansing, Leavenworth, Linwood and Tonganoxie.
To date, the 1-cent sales tax has funded construction of the county's new justice center, as well as other projects throughout the county.
In the April 5 election, county voters will decide whether to approve another 10-year, one-cent sales tax, starting in 2007. It's estimated, the new sales tax would raise more than $63 million during a 10-year period.
And part of that money would be used to construct a road leading from U.S. Highway 24-40 to the turnpike, where the Kansas Turnpike Authority will build an interchange.
Access to the turnpike is critical to the county's growth, Oroke said, noting that Leavenworth County is the only county the turnpike crosses that does not have access to the turnpike.
As the county's population growth continues, traffic is going to become more and more of a concern.
"As this county develops and you look at the population increase, you have to prepare to move this traffic," Oroke said. "We're a real commuting society."
Though U.S. Highway 24-40 now moves non-stop from Tonganoxie to Basehor, Oroke said that will change.
"Once they have buildout, which is almost total saturation along State Avenue (24-40 Highway), which would put us about like Shawnee Mission Parkway, you'd have a stoplight at every mile," Oroke said. "They're saying when they reach total buildout ... it will add 20 more minutes to drive between Tonganoxie and Basehor because traffic will be that much more heavy."
Oroke explained the Kansas Turnpike Authority will pay for the construction of ramps to the turnpike, but it's the county's responsibility to pay for road improvement leading to the ramps. He added that the proposed 1-cent sales tax, if approved, would fund the cost of improving a road that would lead to the turnpike.
Oroke said if a turnpike entrance is built, it will likely be on or near County Road 1, which runs south from the west edge of Tonganoxie.
Tonganoxie mayor Dave Taylor said if a turnpike entrance is built in southern Leavenworth County, County Road 1 would be a better choice than County Road 25, which has also been suggested. County Road 25 runs south, from the east of Tonganoxie.
"We're not going to put all our eggs in one basket going east," Taylor said. "We have a lot of our future going toward Lawrence. It's pretty flat land and it's great for houses. ... I think the future is toward Lawrence, I honestly do."
Harold Denholm, the VFW member who moderated the forum, said he would prefer that a turnpike entrance be on the east side of Tonganoxie.
"It just doesn't make sense to put it down there (on County Road 1)," Denholm said.
Oroke said if the 1-cent sales tax passes, the county will also look at ways to improve gravel roads.
"County rock roads are still the number one issue in the county," Oroke said. "From 75 to 80 percent of all the phone calls I get at the courthouse concern county roads. They are going to be addressed."
Others who spoke at the forum included Tonganoxie city council member Velda Roberts, who voiced favor of the proposed 1-cent sales tax.
And, school board candidates Brian Huseman, Kay Smith, Bob DeHoff and Darlyn Hansen spoke, as well as city council candidates Cecil Vinyard, Jason Ward, Jim Truesdell and Robert Nickle. Steve Gumm, another candidate for city council, was unable to attend.