Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 1990


October 24, 1990


A "no" verdict on either the south Lawrence trafficway question by Douglas County voters or the eastern parkway issue by Lawrence voters on Nov. 6 wouldn't necessarily mark the end of the road for those projects.

If the voters reject either project, it becomes decision time again for the Douglas County Commission and the Lawrence City Commission.

The county's options are to be bound by the vote and drop the trafficway proposal entirely; schedule another vote and try again on the same question; or try to determine why the referendum lost and develop a new plan that addresses those concerns.

The city could do likewise for the parkway. Unlike the county, however, it isn't burdened by the need to decide what to do with bonds already issued for its project.

Should the county commission choose to drop the trafficway proposal, it will retire the balance of the $4 million in bonds it issued in 1985 for the trafficway. County taxpayers have been paying on the bonds for five years. The county already has spent $400,000 for preliminary work on the trafficway, so $3.6 million would be retired.

THE RETIREMENT of the bonds, also known as defeasement, would be a fairly simple procedure taking place over a six-year period ending in 1997, explained County Administrator Chris McKenzie. In fact, a plan is already in place for that contingency.

McKenzie estimated the cost to retire the bonds at $3.7 million an amount equal to the balance of the original issue plus an estimated $125,000. The county will have to pay the extra $125,000 because the remaining bond proceeds won't be enough to cover the retirement costs, McKenzie said.

The $125,000 a one-time expenditure that would be made in November probably would come from the bond and interest fund or the general fund of the county budget, he said.

In terms of the 1990 county mill levy, the cost of defeasement would be equal to .22 of a mill $1.98 in property taxes on a house valued at $75,000, McKenzie said. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation.

THE OTHER "cost" of defeat would be the loss of the $37 million in outside funds from the federal government, the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

McKenzie stresses repeatedly that those funds are only for the trafficway project as approved. The "use it or lose it" dates for the outside funding begin to expire next summer, he said.

That timeframe would allow the county to hold another election for the same project in the spring. A polling of commissioners, including the two candidates seeking election to the 1st District post, shows that an election in the spring hasn't been ruled out in the event the trafficway is defeated in November.

BUT A SECOND vote, in the event of a defeat, is not supported by Commission Chairman Mike Amyx. He said he looks at the election results as binding on the commission and added, "I'm not going back on my word."

If the trafficway plan is dropped completely or radically altered from the current proposal, McKenzie said the community would not likely see a circumferential road system by the year 2000.

"When you start all over again, just add the eight to 10 or 11 years on top of that," McKenzie said. "And that will be eight to 10 to 11 years of studies, public hearings, environmental impact statements, federal and state grant applications and lobbying, (and) possible litigation."

The city's situation in the event of a no vote on the parkway isn't so complex.

AMONG ITS options after a defeat of the parkway bond issue are: dropping the parkway proposal completely; waiting for completion of the corridor study currently under way and then submitting a more definitive plan to voters at a later date; or developing a totally new plan for the parkway and submitting it to voters.

"I don't think we'd necessarily give up on other ways to fund it," City Manager Mike Wildgen said. "I think we'd keep looking for different ways to fund the eastern parkway.

"If you just don't have the funding for the parkway, the commissions would both have to decide what the possibilities are for future funding of the parkway and how they would continue trying to get it. They'd have to decide at some point whether they'd want to continue that policy of not funding it."

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