Archive for Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mayor deciding vote for CR 1

Construction cranes sit idle Monday, March 10,  at the spot where a bridge on County Road 1 used to run over the Kansas Turnpike in southern Leavenworth County.

Construction cranes sit idle Monday, March 10, at the spot where a bridge on County Road 1 used to run over the Kansas Turnpike in southern Leavenworth County.

May 21, 2008

It appears as though Tonganoxie will be buying a seat at the table for the future of Leavenworth County Road 1.

In his first tie-breaking decision, Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal voted in favor of offering $1.5 million for improvements along the road.

"I had to do a lot of soul-searching before I made this decision, but I really think it's the right thing to do," Vestal said before entering his vote.

The 32 vote came a week after a special meeting of the Tonganoxie City Council where it held off a vote on the subject until the sealed bids for the project were revealed and an actual price tag could be determined.

The May 13 bid opening had prices that ranged from $16.7 million to $25 million for the entire project, which includes the interchange at nterstate 70.

Vestal said during the meeting that the County's portion of the project would be about $10.255 million. The city's contribution would come from $1 million paid in $100,000 increments during the next 10 years. This money would come from the city's portion of the 1 percent county sales tax revenue. The remainder would be paid from revenues from development fees that would come from any new commercial or residential development along the road.

The dissenting voters were council members Tom Putthoff and Paula Crook.

Because of where he thinks the economy is heading, Putthoff said he wasn't optimistic about future development along the road and wanted to see more of the city's portion coming from future development costs.

Council members Steve Gumm and Jason Ward voted in favor of the funding. Council member Jim Truesdell, whose employer, HNTB Corp., is working on the project, abstained.

On Tuesday Roger Shilling, who in September 2006 started a petition in a failed attempt to put the city's then $1 million contribution to the project to general election, requested that there be an investigation on whether there was a conflict of interest with Gumm, who is a senior vice president loan officer for First State Bank and Trust. The bank is the trustee for the Julius and Margaret Leighty estate, which owns about 0.75 of a mile of frontage on CR 1 in the 240-acre estate.

"I think the question we've been trying to get answered is if there is any conflict of interest in reference to those issues," County Attorney Frank Kohl said Tuesday. "From what I've been able to see there is a conflict of interest, because there are some financial issues where profit may be involved."

Kohl said he would be filing paperwork with the Kansas Attorney General's Office to look into the matter.

Tonganoxie City Attorney Mike Kelly said Tuesday the city's vote will stand, but if there is an investigation, no money will be exchanged until the city receives the opinion from the Attorney General's Office. He also said the city would willingly cooperate with any investigation.

Asked by Shilling about a possible conflict of interest at Monday night's meeting, Gumm said he does not believe there to be a conflict of interest because he does not work for the department that handles trusts.

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