As the world turns.
There are two new developments this week in the
continuing saga surrounding Platte County's road
sales tax and the roads master plan this week.
First, new commissioners in the past week have
instructed the county planning and zoning department
to put road improvements in the unincorporated
area "on the fast track." This after
Jim Plunkett, new second district commissioner,
openly expressed frustration that $11.2 million
of improvements have already been made or are
under contract in the city of Kansas City, with
only $1 million committed thus far to rural projects.
The second new development involves some apparent
difference of opinion over the motives behind
a county contract signed with the City of Kansas
City late last year.
Two county officials on board at the time the
contract was crafted say it was designed to be
sure Platte County road sales tax money is spent
on Kansas City projects within this county.
That's the word from Aaron Schmidt, county planning
and zoning director, and Platte County Presiding
Commissioner Betty Knight.
The contract, executed on Dec. 30 of last year,
the last commission meeting date for former associate
commissioners Michael Short and Steve Wegner,
raised eyebrows in its timing and its wording
that some say was an attempt to bind the incoming
commissioners, Tom Pryor and Jim Plunkett, to
spending at least $21 million of county road sales
tax money within the City of Kansas City.
Pryor referenced the contract during his unscheduled
comments at Thursday's commission meeting. He
said he views the contract "as an attempt
to bind this commission."
Plunkett, who is on vacation this week, previously
has expressed his frustration that Kansas City
projects have been "front-loaded" in
the roads master plan, with his concern being
that by the time unincorporated projects are scheduled
the road tax income will not be there to finish
projects that voters believed were promised to
Pryor's comments came just hours after an article
in last week's edition of The Landmark hit the
streets, detailing a problem with accuracy in
the projected revenue from the county road sales
tax. Proponents of the tax may have inflated projected
revenue by more than $15 million, with their projects
at $65 million over the lifetime of the tax, while
the county's investment banker said he is only
comfortable with projected revenue at $50 million.
Schmidt says the reasoning for the contract with
Kansas City was to calm fears that the city would
take the money and spend it elsewhere within its
"When the roads master plan was done, a
lot of people had concerns about the Kansas City
portion of the county road sales tax money being
spent in Jackson County or someplace like that.
So at that point, the commission decided to create
this agreement to have us (the county) do these
improvements within Kansas City to make sure the
money is spent in Platte County," Schmidt
told The Landmark this week.
Knight backed up Schmidt's view point.
"We don't just give monies to Kansas City
like we did to other cities. We didn't want to
send the money to Kansas City and maybe have it
not be spent in Platte County, that's why the
specific projects were listed, to make sure they
got done," Knight said Tuesday. "It
is Kansas City money that we are spending on behalf
The contract with Kansas City, Schmidt acknowledged,
is different from similar contracts the county
has with smaller cities who receive a portion
of road sales tax revenue. As opposed to contracts
with other municipalities, the KC agreement spells
out specific projects that are to be done with
its share of road tax money. Projects specified
to be done in Kansas City per the contract are:
Four lanes of North Green Hills Road from
Barry Road to NE 88th St.
Capacity improvements at and near the interchange
of Barry Road and I-29
Improvements to North Congress
Improvements to Barry Road from Amity to
Four lanes of North Congress from Hwy. 152
to Tiffany Springs.
Of those projects, the North Green Hills improvements
are already done. The capacity improvements at
Barry Road and I-29 are scheduled for construction
this year. The improvements to North Congress
are scheduled to be done this year, as are the
improvements to North Congress from Hwy. 152 to
Schmidt says that the improvements to Barry Road
west of I-29 from Amity to Childress could be
in jeopardy because of the estimated road tax
revenue being less than originally projected.
The new emphasis to get unincorporated projects
"on the fast track" also won't help
the chances of the west Barry Road project getting
done, he acknowledged.
"My direction from the previous county commission
was to focus on Kansas City projects, which allowed
some of the unincorporated jobs to slip. Now we've
got these (unincorporated projects) fired up and
now they're moving along," Schmidt said Tuesday.
The unincorporated projects he's referring to
include improvements to Baker Road, Farley-Hampton,
Hillsboro, Humphrey's, and Elm Grove.
"Within the last week the change of direction
has come down to focus more on unincorporated
projects," Schmidt said, explaining he follows
policies that are outlined for him by the county
Schmidt admitted that on the unincorporated projects,
there won't be enough money "to do everything
There will be tough decisions that have to be
made on exactly what should be done and what is
top in priority," he said.
"I think the new commission has done a real
good job about holding public meeting and asking
people how they want their public dollars spent.
That process is going to work really well,"