Archive for Wednesday, January 25, 2006

City takes step toward committing $2.8 million to new road

January 25, 2006

City council members, by a slim majority, on Monday agreed -- in concept -- to contribute up to $2.8 million to improve a road south of town.

But that approval came with numerous caveats.

On a 3-1-1 vote, with council member Ron Cranor opposed and member Jim Truesdell abstaining, council members voted to "support the concept of contributing" up to $2.8 million toward improvements to County Road 1. Truesdell works for HNTB, a firm that has provided engineering services for the County Road 1 project.

The county road -- which runs south from Tonganoxie to the Leavenworth-Douglas county line to Eudora -- will provide access to a planned interchange along the Kansas Turnpike. The Kansas Turnpike Authority has agreed to build the interchange, if County Road 1 is upgraded.

That upgrade must cover the six miles between Tonganoxie and Kansas Highway 32.

City Administrator Mike Yanez asked city council members to consider making the commitment before next Tuesday, when an area delegation heads to Washington, D.C., o lobby for federal dollars to help pay the $14.3 million price tag. The county has said it would contribute about $7 million, and the delegation will seek about $4.5 in federal funds.

That leaves the $2.8 million that the council discussed Monday night.

Here are the contingencies that must be met before the city would provide any dollars:

  • The county commits a specific percentage of sales tax revenues to the project.
  • The federal government contributes "all or a major part" of $4.5 million before the city formally commits any money.
  • Additional engineering be performed to refine the cost of the project.
  • Owners of Tailgate Ranch -- which encompasses large tracts between Tonganoxie and the turnpike -- divulge their development plans. That would enable the city to determine whether taxes and development fees from that area would total $2.8 million.

"Development would pay for this," Yanez said. ''... It is my intent to ensure that we do not have to raise taxes among the existing taxpayers in Tonganoxie to provide the road."

Cranor said he voted no out of caution.

"I'm not 100 percent comfortable with the whole thing," he said Tuesday. "... I'm just thinking of the taxpayers. I think there needs to be somebody waving the flag and saying, 'Let's think about this.'"

City attorney Mike Kelly told the council that its vote showed the city's intent.

"You're not legally committed to anything yet," he said. ''As long as it was presented not as an agreement, but as the city is willing to negotiate to enter into an agreement."

Tom Kaleko, the city's financial adviser, said the capital outlay for the turnpike interchange is small, comparatively speaking.

"Cities spend up to $75 million and $80 million (for interstate highway interchanges)," he said. "This is a tremendous opportunity."

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