Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2008

City, county discuss County Road 1 funding

April 30, 2008

For the first time since the new council and new mayor took office last year, the Tonganoxie governing body met with the Leavenworth County Commission to discuss an old topic: who's going to pay for County Road 1.

Commissioners are willing to pay up to $11.8 million for the project, but they would like to receive funding help from county entities that would benefit from the interchange. Specifically, they want money from Tonganoxie.

How much money?

Nobody would say.

"In the back of my mind I probably have a figure I haven't shared," said Clyde Graeber, county commissioner, when asked by Paula Crook, City Council member, for a ballpark figure on how much the county was expecting from the city. "You need to sit down as a commission yourselves and talk about this and decide if you want to move forward and share or if you want us just to do it."

The meeting came as a request from Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal. The commission, which includes Graeber, Dean Oroke and J.C. Tellefson, met at the Tonganoxie City Council Chambers on Wednesday night to weigh the benefits of the city giving money to the project.

This was a preliminary meeting to answer some questions before the city and the county hash out an interlocal agreement on how future development would be treated along CR 1.

The city wants to make sure future development meets its standards for any possible annexation. But the county, although willing to enter into an agreement without funding, wanted to let it be known that it would be the first to reap the benefits if nobody else contributes to the project.

"We are going to protect the revenue stream," Oroke said. "Even if the city were to annex that property: if we aren't going to get money, the county comes first."

If the city were to contribute money, Graeber said the county would be willing to share revenue with the city in an equal proportion to their contribution.

Some in the audience, such as former council member Velda Roberts were in favor of contributing to the project.

"For us to have the opportunity for something that is still at the 10 percent level, if we can have the opportunity to participate in that for a million dollars, - a good portion of which is not coming out of the pockets out of our citizens, but coming from county sales tax money that is generated elsewhere - we will never ever have that opportunity again. "

But others in the audience whose property would be affected by the road improvement and the interchange wanted their concerns to be heard.

"It's really hard as a property owner to sit around meeting after meeting, year after year and listen to everyone talk about what's going to happen to the property in southern Leavenworth County when really nobody that talks about it owns it," said Jan Bernhardt. "I feel that as land owners we are - not to be dramatic - being held hostage by the situation."

Besides having land taken away, some of the CR 1 property owners voiced concerns about keeping their land and surrounding land agricultural instead of changing it over for development.

Before the council makes any decision on any possible contribution, Mike Yanez, the city administrator, said he would get together with city staff, city engineers and the city financial advisor to see what type of funding would be available for the project.

¢ In other business the city council unanimously voted to accept the contract with Bucker Willis & Ratliff for a citywide retail revitalization program.

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