Clerk: Petition seeking vote not valid
Group hoped for public referendum on spending city funds on County Road 1
A petition seeking a vote on plans to improve Leavenworth County Road 1 has failed.
Late Friday afternoon, a petition containing 275 signatures was submitted to the city. The petition asked that this question be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot: "Shall the city of Tonganoxie financially contribute toward the County Road 1 improvement project?"
On Tuesday, Leavenworth County Clerk Linda Scheer began reviewing the petition, to ensure the signatures were valid. By 2 p.m., she'd determined that only 222 of the signatures met the criteria necessary for the petition to be valid.
Scheer said 262 valid signatures were necessary to force a vote.
"It's an invalid petition," she said Tuesday afternoon. "A letter will be going out to the city clerk's office this afternoon. There weren't enough signatures."
At the heart of the issue is about $14.54 million in planned work on Leavenworth County Road 1, between Tonganoxie and Kansas Highway 32. The Kansas Turnpike Authority plans to build an interchange on County Road 1, which also is known as 222nd Street -- but the road must be widened and otherwise improved before that is done.
The city council has voted to spend up to $2.8 million on the road improvements.
The county will spend about $8 million in sales tax revenue, and the Kansas Turnpike Authority is considering a $2 million contribution to the project.
And U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has said the federal highway bill contains another $1 million for the project. The city is seeking contributions from the state's economic development fund, too.
Phyllis Shilling, who along with her husband, Roger, were among six people circulating the petition, said she's resolute that the city should not contribute funds to upgrade the county road.
"I don't think the impact study has ever come through as to how it will affect Tonganoxie," she said. ''... I absolutely do not think that we should be involved with County Road 1. I know that's not a forward-thinking position, but I think we should concentrate on the things that we definitely have going right now, not things that are possibly going to happen."
She said she didn't believe the city would contribute to the road project -- until several weeks ago, when she attended a meeting at the courthouse.
"Until that time," she said, "we really felt like it was kind of a pipe dream. ... We really feel it should be up to the public, or that they should have at least had some say."
The city has discussed paying for a study to gauge the impact of a turnpike interchange, but has not commissioned the study yet.
Scheer said signatures were rejected for a variety of reasons.
"Some didn't live the in city," she said. "Some of them were not registered to vote. There was one duplicate. Some of them had (listed) no addresses. They just had a date, their printed name and a signature. There were several of those.
"Some of them were registered at the wrong address, and there was one or two we could not read, period. We couldn't read the signature. We couldn't read the address. I think there was one that didn't have a date."
The Shillings said that the week they and others spent circulating the petition has underscored another point: The importance of registering to vote.
Most of the signatures on the petitions that were rejected were because the signers were not registered to vote, Phyllis Shilling said.
"That was our first question: Are you registered to vote? And they honestly thought they were," she said. "It's important that people register to vote."
To place the question on the Nov. 7 ballot, Scheer had set Friday as the deadline for petitions to be submitted for review.
Now that she's determined this petition is not valid, no special questions are slated for the November general election.
"It's gone," she said. "It's dead for now."
In addition to the Shillings, these were petition-carriers: Connie Putthoff, 122 E. Washington; Duane Nible, 1415 E. Fourth St.; Paula Crook, 1403 E. Fourth St.; and Deborah Skeet, 15731 222nd St.