Archive for Wednesday, November 15, 2006

County, city work on pact to fund County Road 1

November 15, 2006

County counselor David VanParys doesn't have the rest of the week off.

VanParys jokingly told the Tonganoxie City Council on Monday that if the council would pledge $2.8 million to the County Road 1 project, that he probably wouldn't need to head to the office for the rest of the week.

"Realistically, that's not on the table anymore,' VanParys said.

In January, the city pledged up to $2.8 million, contingent on factors such as federal funding and updated cost estimates to the project. But earlier this month, the city discussed, instead, offering $1 million from sales tax revenues for the project.

On Monday, the city took no action on the issue, but the council asked City Administrator Mike Yanez to set up a meeting with VanParys and county officials to discuss funding further. Council member Velda Roberts also would attend any meetings.

The six-mile road improvement project, which would run from south of Tonganoxie to County Road 32, is estimated to cost $13.5 million and would link Tonganoxie to a turnpike interchange.

The upgrade is an integral part of the interchange package.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority will construct the interchange. In addition, it has pledged $2 million to the county road project. The county has pledged $8 million, and it's expected $1 million in federal highway funds will be available for the road.

That leaves a funding gap of $2.5 million. If Tonganoxie firmly pledges $1 million, that still leaves the project $1.5 million short.

However, VanParys said that the county could allocate more money.

"They would prefer not to, but in order to get the project done, it's going to be considered and it's going to be done," VanParys said.

The city and county are working against the clock to keep the county road project moving.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority has set a Dec. 31 deadline for financial commitments to the project.

But VanParys said the county is willing to work with the city.

"What I'd really like to say is this: We want you as a partner and we need you as a partner," VanParys said.

Yanez agreed.

"I know the dialogue between the two bodies is important as we look to get this thing wrapped up," Yanez said.

Conflict of interest

During open agenda, Tonganoxie resident Roger Shilling asked council member Jim Truesdell about his job and how it relates to the County Road 1 project.

Truesdell said he is employed by HNTB, an engineering firm that has become involved in the project.

Truesdell said that when the city became a player in the project, as far as putting money into the project, he started to abstain from voting.

Shilling also asked Steve Gumm, whether his employment with First State Bank and Trust was a conflict of interest because the bank has interest in real estate along County Road 1.

Gumm said he abstains from anything that involves actual bank accounts.

"You don't think you need to abstain from voting?" Shilling asked.

"Not any that I'm aware of," Gumm replied.

Shilling and his wife, Phyllis, who also was in attendance at the meeting, were among organizers of a petition drive to force a citywide vote on whether the city can spend any money on the county road upgrade. The city has agreed to hold an election on the petition question -- but the city also has filed a lawsuit, contending the petition is not valid. If a judge sides with the city, no election would be held.

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