Airport debate goes to voters
The Leavenworth County Commission plans to put a question about a possible regional airport for the county on the November ballot.
With Leavenworth County resident Irene Tork’s protest petition being deemed valid by the county clerk’s office, the commission moved forward with its next step.
The petition requested that a decision on an airport be sent to the voters.
At Thursday’s county commission meeting, the board opted to let the charter resolution regarding the airport die. If after 30 days from when the petition is verified no action is taken, the resolution dies. The board, by a 3-0 vote, directed county staff to craft a specific advisory question regarding the airport for the November election.
“My own feeling is we need to honor the sufficiency of the protest,” Commissioner Clyde Graeber said.
Tork reported that she collected 1,238 signatures and she could have collected 3,000, but the weather hindered her and husband Pete Tork from circulating the petition more frequently.
“My husband and I did this at our own expense,” Tork said. “I put 2,000 miles on my car.”
Commissioners praised Tork for her work.
“What you did epitomizes our process,” Commissioner John Flower said. “You exercised the right of the people and I just think that’s marvelous.”
Tork also noted she turned in the petitions two weeks in advance of the deadline and had residents who both favored and opposed an airport.
“I had people who were for the airport who said ‘I’ll sign it. I’m for the airport, but I think we need to vote on it,’” Tork said.
County Counselor David Van Parys said the county could submit a conditions statement to the FAA that the county had interest in continuing research of the study of a regional airport, but that there also would be no commitment to construction.
Based on the November vote, Commission Chairman JC Tellefson would contact the FAA with a commitment of $7,500 solely for studies.
Van Parys noted that the actual funding for an airport, in seeking bonds, would have to go before the public for a vote.
As for the ballot question, the county will need to form a statute question for the November ballot by Aug. 1, County Clerk Janet Klasinski said.
Other options the commission had with regards to the protest petition:
• Call a special election, which would have to be held within 90 days of the protest petition being verified. Cost was expected to be about $30,000.
• Adopt a second charter resolution, which would have rescinded the original charter resolution.
In other action, the board:
• Approved, 2-1, with Graeber voting against, to approve outside meetings, reserved strictly for public comment the second and third Thursdays of the first month of each quarter to start at 6 p.m. The second Thursday public comment session always will take place at the courthouse, while the third Thursday will alternate between Tonganoxie and Basehor. To satisfy state statutes — that the commission must meet twice a week — on those days when public comment is held at night, the board will call two meetings one after the other on the Monday of that week.
Louis Klemp, a former county commissioner, said when he served on the board it met elsewhere also, but was discontinued because of lack of interest.
• Heard a quarterly report from Joe Jones about the Heritage Center.
Jones, who is a board member for the center, noted the Heritage Center received income from three renters: the Council on Aging, Emporia State University and Dr. Tealy. The center has refinanced its mortgage and lowered the payment to about $800/month. It also has refinanced an air conditioner loan to speed up paying it off.
Asked by Tellefson if the center receives funding through the county or City of Leavenworth, Jones said no.
• Approved the final plat, 3-0, for Flying Deer Estates, a subdivision at 198th Street and Evans Road that consists of about 103 acres. Owners are Andrew and Kathleen Breuer and applicant was Schlagel and Associates, PA, of Lenexa. The planning commission recommended approval, 7-0.
• Approved crafting a letter to the Mid-America Regional Council expressing displeasure with latest plans for fiber-optic lines as part of a project that would be partially funded with grants. The latest plans bypass Leavenworth County. Tellefson said he envisioned lines connecting Leavenworth to Easton, south to Tonganoxie and east to Basehor. The fiber optics wouldn’t provide instant Internet access, but Tellefson said entrepreneurs could build connections from those lines.
• Approved, 3-0, a request from Mid-America Regional Council for Jeff Joseph to be appointed to its Total Transportation Policy Committee. It is a two-year term. County Administrator Heather Morgan said it was an additional position and that the current county representatives would continue to serve.
• Discussed, at the urging of Tellefson, to look into possible fees for animal control. Tellefson said he envisioned planning and zoning to handle research on the matter. Tellefson requested information back by the end of April. Flower said he did not support directing staff to do research on the matter; Graeber said he supported the request.
• Will revisit neighborhood revitalization and vitalization plans. Tellefson said, after further review, he thought he misunderstood some of the information regarding the plans. The board directed staff to assemble an overview of the plans by late March.
• Discussed the possibility of consolidated dispatch/burn permits. An area of concern was that City of Leavenworth residents pay dispatch taxes twice — one for the city and another for the county. Flower said he thought city residents were not challenging the double tax. Otherwise, they would be attending city meetings with concerns. Graeber disagreed, noting some residents aren’t aware they’re paying twice. A letter is being crafted to be sent to the city identifying specific areas of possible consolidation.
• Approved minutes of the Feb. 22 meeting as amended, 2-0, with Tellefson abstaining because he was not at the Feb. 22 meeting.