City considers funds for county road
Tonganoxie city officials are mulling over how much money they will commit to improving Leavenworth County Road 1.
The Kansas Turnpike Authority hopes to construct an interchange on the turnpike at County Road 1 -- about three miles south of Tonganoxie. But the county road, which is narrow and has no shoulders, must be improved.
And that's where the city comes in.
In January, city council members, by a slim majority, agreed -- in concept -- to contribute up to $2.8 million to improve the road. 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.
Last week, county commissioners attempted to exact a more precise number from the city. In a joint meeting, Dean Oroke, commission chairman, said the county is pledging $8 million in sales tax revenue. And it is possible the federal government will come through with some funding, Oroke said.
"A formal announcement will not be made until December, which would be after the November elections," Oroke said. "The rumor is that Senator (Pat) Roberts has requested or is proposing $2 million for that specific project."
And it's possible the turnpike authority might kick in some money for the road itself. The KTA already has agreed to pay for the bridge over the turnpike, along with construction of the entrance and exit.
"A large majority of the traffic would come from the south end, from K-10, and that would be a major, major source of revenue to them," Oroke said.
Oroke said fellow commissioner Clyde Graeber is talking with KTA officials about helping fund the county road improvements.
"We have no definite figure," Graeber said. "There has been indication that this project is important to them, and they may try to help with the shortfall that we may have."
Currently, the county has two preliminary construction estimates for improving the six miles of County Road 1 between Tonganoxie and Kansas Highway 32, if bids for the project were taken in 2009:
- $14.54 million. That would finance 12-foot lanes with 6-foot shoulders and 4-foot grass shoulders.
- $13.83 million. That would finance 14-foot lanes, 4-foot gravel shoulders and 4-foot grass shoulders.
So even with the county's $8 million -- and $2 million from the federal government and additional funds from the KTA, it appears the project is falling short of funds.
City council members said they would have to discuss the issue further.
In the past, council members and City Administrator Mike Yanez have said they anticipate commercial and residential development along the improved county road -- and, in particular, development of the massive Tailgate Ranch -- would mean additional tax revenues for Tonganoxie.
But the city should not use Tailgate to base its decision on how much money to commit to the county road project, according to Ralph Lewis II, who represents Tailgate owners. Tailgate owners have said they would consider annexation into Tonganoxie, if KTA constructed the interchange at County Road 1.
In a terse e-mail he sent to City Administrator Yanez last week, Lewis said: "My fear is that if any type of commitment to develop or annex is made upon which the city relies in its decision to issue the bonds and if, for whatever reason, annexation or development is ultimately determined by Tailgate's current owners or future owners not be to in their best interests, Tailgate may be exposed to liability."
The e-mail -- which was first sent to county officials -- was released at last week's meeting.
Yanez, who clearly was surprised that county officials released the e-mail, said he had received it. He said he had been under the impression that Tailgate and Tonganoxie could form a partnership. But after reading the e-mail, he said he realized: "This partnership was dissolved."
Regardless of the e-mail, Yanez said the city remains interested in the project.
"We still believe this project needs to go forward," he said. ''... I'm sure the council is going to have another meeting, and I'm sure the council is going to say, let's keep looking at this. We have to look at the options we can do to come to the plate without risking the city treasury."
City council member Velda Roberts agreed, saying, "I think we have some work to do."
The city council's next meeting -- 7 p.m. today in council chambers -- will be a special work session to discuss the city's 2007 operating budget. The council will have its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Council Chambers, 325 Delaware.