Resident criticizes rising County Road 1 costs
Leavenworth County Commissioners began an open meeting Thursday, March 20, hearing vocal criticism of the cost for planned improvements to County Road 1 from Leavenworth resident Louis Klemp.
Klemp, who has been an opponent of using an excess of sales tax money to fund the project on several occasions, asked commissioners, "Are we going to do this project no matter what the expenses?"
The project will create an interchange with Interstate 70 in southern Leavenworth County, giving the county its first direct access to the federal interstate system.
Klemp said with cost projections for the project having risen and with a fledgling economic climate in general, he was concerned to hear that commissioners were considering a bond issue to finance the work.
He said the commission's actions in regard to County Road 1 were "dishonest."
Commission chairman Clyde Graeber countered, "There has not been one dishonest thing done by this commission : We've stepped forward and brought forth every piece of information we've received."
Graeber said the commission is still waiting to nail down what contributions will come from other entities and noted that was the reason the Kansas Department of Transportation was approached recently to try to "clarify their contribution" for a tie-in with County Road 1 and U.S. Highway 24-40.
Graeber added that a meeting with Tonganoxie officials to discuss a possible contribution from the city is scheduled for April 23.
"To the best of my knowledge, we still don't have those final figures, which might possibly change the board's decision, but I can't see that it would," Graeber said.
The board is scheduled to resume talks regarding a possible bond issue in session Thursday, March 27.
Although no official action has been taken, County Counselor David Van Parys submitted five bid proposals from investment banking firms to commissioners on March 17 and said he anticipated a bond issue of roughly $18 million to be reimbursed by the countywide one-cent sales tax that runs through 2016.
Commissioner J.C. Tellefson said an official total for County Road 1 improvements would not be solidified until after bids for construction on the road were received later this year.
"Should the (construction) bids come in extraordinarily different than what we are being led to believe they will be, we can step back from that road - we can stop acquiring right of way," Tellefson said. ": We really have significantly less than $1 million invested in this project right now."
In other business Thursday, the board:
¢ Considered a request for funding by Pat Barnhardt with the Leavenworth County Drug/Alcohol Abuse Council in the amount of $14,000.
Barnhardt said the organization supports "the education and prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, especially focusing on children and youth." He said members of the organization have also helped with events like Red Ribbon Week and area project graduations.
Tellefson said the request would be an appropriate expenditure of county funds, but Graeber said he would like to have Van Parys review the request before any decision is made.
In business Monday, the board:
¢ Reviewed a proposal from T-Mobile representatives, which included approximately $608,000 for reimbursement to the county for a frequency relocation due to the company's purchase of the frequency from the Federal Communications Commission.
¢ Approved, 3-0, a county continuity of operations plan, which sets guidelines for maintaining essential government functions in the event of a major catastrophic event.
¢ Announced a staff work session between county staff, Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials and representatives with the city of Basehor to be held March 31. The group will discuss wastewater management issues in County Sewer District No. 3.
¢ Approved a request from Leavenworth County Extension agent Denise Sullivan to provide county employees with "practical" financial advice through occasional e-mail tips.
"It's just a way of trying to get more information into people's hands : to make a positive change toward financial security," Sullivan said.
¢ Met in executive session for 15 minutes with County Appraiser Donna Graf to discuss a possible contract renewal.
¢ Met in executive session with Van Parys to discuss personnel.