Tonganoxie City Council votes to purchase church for $275,000

Mayor casts tiebreaking vote for police station's new home

January 5, 2016

As the debate about the Tonganoxie Police Department’s future home has dragged on, City Council members have been unanimous about the need for a new station — elected officials just have been split on the location and new versus repurposed.

On Monday, the council again was split, but it came to a decision.

Cornerstone Family Worship at Sixth and Church streets will be home to the new station.

The council voted, 3-2, to approve purchase of the building for $275,000. The vote came after executive sessions with church officials and then city staff to discuss the potential real estate acquisition.

Council Members Andy Gilner and Chris Donnelly voted for the purchase, while fellow Council Members Curtis Oroke and Kara Reed voted against the measure.

With a 2-2 tie, Mayor Jason Ward served as the tiebreaker. He gave the deciding nod to the purchase.

“In the end it’s about the greater good for our community,” Ward said before a vote was taken. “It’s about our police station and moving on down the road.

“That’s what I would encourage the council to do and the community to do. This discussion has gone on all too long. At the end of the day, you want the best for everybody.”

But Oroke questioned whether it was suitable for all involved.

The city selected two area companies to appraise the building. Bliss Appraisal of Kansas City, Mo., gave an appraisal of $200,000, while Aul Appraisals of Lawrence had the higher appraisal of $280,000.

Oroke said that discrepancy should have led to a negotiated price, such as splitting the difference at $240,000.

“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our community,” he said. “It’s good for them and not good for us.”

He added that it affected the taxpayers and, again, there should have been a negotiated price.

A church official said the original asking price was $300,000. The $275,000 price tag has been the amount church officials approved to be shared in open session in recent meetings.

Oroke pointed out an excise tax break the church already received for a new church it plans to build along the curve on U.S. Highway 24-40 in Tonganoxie.

The church received a 30 percent discount, which amounted to about $12,000. That vote also was 3-2, with Ward providing the tiebreaker.

Like Monday, Council Member Jim Truesdell was absent from that meeting. Had he been in attendance at this week’s meeting, it’s questionable whether the council would have approved the purchase.

Truesdell, who with Reed was on an infrastructure committee for facility needs, has been adamant about building a new structure for the police department.

Reed said at Monday’s meeting she was voting against the church purchase because she thought it was not the best long-term decision.

The church, which has a basement and main level, covers 6,000 square feet. It also has a parking lot.

The council later voted, 3-1, to pursue funding up to $1.1 million for purchase and renovation of the church and renovations to the former post office, which will be transformed into a new City Hall. The city purchased Tan Time, which moved into the former post office, for $53,700 last year. Oroke cast the dissenting vote.

With the church being in a residential area, some residents have voiced concerns about safety, while others contend the department should stay in the downtown area. The church is a block east of U.S. 24-40. Police Chief Jeff Brandau has contended there would be minimal traffic because officers on duty oftentimes are out patrolling.

Originally published at: