Attorney: Suit coming on road petition
Council member proposes $1 million for County Road 1 project
It's likely the city will file a court challenge this week against a petition seeking a vote on whether the city should spend funds to help upgrade Leavenworth County Road 1.
And at a special meeting last week, two city council members said they favor contributing $1 million of city funds -- possibly using some of the city's share of a one-cent sales tax that voters approved last year.
Improvements to County Road 1 between Tonganoxie and Kansas Highway 32 are necessary before a Kansas Turnpike interchange can be constructed.
Recent developments on the road issue include:
- A city court challenge to a petition seeking a vote on whether to use city funds on the road project. City attorney Mike Kelly said Tuesday that he planned to follow through on direction given to him by the city council and this week file the lawsuit, challenging the validity of the petition. "It will be this week," Kelly said late Tuesday afternoon. Kelly told council members last week that an attorney for the League of Kansas Municipalities said he believes the petition is not valid. "The league recommended that the city not take this to an election," Kelly said.
- At the special council meeting last Thursday, council member Velda Roberts proposed using $100,000 a year for 10 years from the city's one-cent sales tax revenues to help finance the road project. That met with support from fellow council member Jason Ward. "Over that 10-year period, the numbers are still positive for the city to afford that project," Ward said.
Roberts said using sales tax revenue would not add to residents' property tax burdens.
- Area residents attending the Thursday meeting questioned, though, whether the city should spend any dollars on the project, primarily because it is in the county. And county resident Kerry Holton said using sales tax revenues for the road project would mean they would not be used for other work in the city. "I know you've got places to put money," he said. "Every city does."
At Thursday's meeting, the council took no official votes on spending on County Road 1. The mayor and two council members -- Ron Cranor and Steve Gumm -- were absent. A third council member, Jim Truesdell, abstained from discussion because he works for an engineering firm that is working on the project.
That left Roberts and Ward discussing the issue.
During the meeting, Kelly and City Administrator Mike Yanez discussed agreements the city is planning to make with the county concerning the road project.
Yanez said the city must continue working on the agreements because the turnpike authority has set a Dec. 31 deadline for commitments to the project.
If all parties cannot agree, he said, "They'll just walk away from it."
As part of that discussion, the city administrator said the project now is estimated to cost $13.5 million. A total of $11 million has been committed by the county, the federal government and the KTA, leaving a funding gap of $2.5 million.
And Dean Oroke, a Tonganoxie resident who chairs the Leavenworth County Commission, said he believes that $13.5 million estimate -- which is in 2009 dollars -- could be high for the six-mile project.
"I'm no engineer, but I do know on the County Road 2 project that was completed in 2004, that cost was $1 million per mile," he said.
Oroke also said that in addition to the $2 million the turnpike authority has committed to upgrading the county road, the KTA would spend about $14 million on construction of the interchange.
Yanez said the city and county are seeking additional funding sources, including the Kansas Department of Transportation and Mid-America Regional Council.
No spending until 2009
Any money the city commits to the project will not be due until April 2009, and the city has two options for paying any money it commits to the project, the city administrator said.
"The city can either pay the money all at once or it can make 10 equal payments, starting in 2009," he said. "We will not be looking at the exchange of any kinds of funds until April of 2009. ... You know what's good about this thing is we still have two years to go out and find more money."
Negotiations will continue between the city and county on the project agreements, which center on funding, as well as land-use along the road.
Sales tax funding
According to information provided by the city, if $100,000 in sales tax revenue were on the road project annually, the city would have an estimated:
- $118,300 in unused sales tax revenue available in 2009.
- $228,700 in unused sales tax revenue available in 2013.
- $360,600 in unused sales tax revenue available in 2018.
"To me," Roberts said, "this is a funding source, and a good application of some of these monies from our countywide sales tax. ... To me, that's a good starting place, and we can build from there."
And it's possible that as commercial development in the county increases, the city's sales tax cut will be higher than projected, she said.
Growth comes at a cost
Duane Nible, 1415 E. Fourth, told council members that growth costs local residents.
"Just the four-lane on 24-40 has doubled my taxes," he said. "Don't say that's not costing me anything. We had to build a new school and a new sewer plant."
And he said he was upset the city is challenging the petition, which was signed by more than 300 people.
"You're acting like there's going to be no election whatsoever," he said. "You're completely going ahead and ignoring anything that we want."
Ward said city officials didn't believe funding for the road is an issue that legally can be put to a vote.
"We haven't taken your right away," he said. "More than likely, a judge will decide whether that is something that can be brought for a vote. If it can't, it can't."
But county resident Bob Dally took issue with that.
"You people are voted to represent the people, not to do what your whims are," he said. "These people signed a petition. You're not willing to take $4,000 and spend it on a special election."
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