Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Governor, lawmakers at odds on planning Topeka park

April 22, 2004


— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius asked lawmakers Wednesday to delete a budget provision that would delay creation of a proposed state park in the capital.

It appeared her request was in for some tough going.

The dispute is over a proposed 88-acre park on land previously owned by the Menninger Clinic, which moved last year to Houston.

The new owners of the land, a development company, want to donate the parcel to the state to receive a tax benefit. The land is adjacent to Cedar Crest, the governor's official residence.

Kansas Parks and Wildlife Secretary Mike Hayden has proposed spending $100,000 to hire a consultant to develop a master plan for the park.

The Legislature, in the state budget signed by Sebelius, approved the expenditure but delayed it until June 2005. In a budget amendment sent to the Legislature, Sebelius said there was no reason to wait so long to start planning the park.

But at a budget subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, said she saw no reason to release the funds until after the state owned the land, which isn't expected until next year.

"What is the big hurry?" Schwartz asked.

But park officials said if the funds were released sooner, they could get the park established that much quicker.

Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, agreed, saying that the Kansas Department of Transportation often did engineering and planning work on future roads before it officially got title to the land.

Schwartz and Rep. Verlyn Osborne, R-St. George, seemed to be leaning toward a proposal that could allow a quicker release of the funds, but only if there were a provision that said if the deal fell through the parks agency would have to make up for the lost funds elsewhere in its budget.

The subcommittee said it would try to decide on a recommendation today.

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