A last-minute petition drive designed to give Tonganoxie residents a chance to vote on providing funding to improve Leavenworth County Road 1 ended in failure.
The Leavenworth County Clerk's office earlier this week determined that not enough of the 275 signatures on the petition were valid. A total of 262 valid signatures were needed, but only 222 of them met the legal requirements, County Clerk Linda Sheer said.
That ruling disappointed those who led the petition drive.
"I'm just thinking about anything I can do to challenge it," Roger Shilling said of the clerk's decision.
Most of the signatures declared invalid were from people who weren't registered to vote, which was one of the requirements, Sheer said.
Shilling and his wife, Phyllis, were among those who were circulating the petition because the Tonganoxie City Council recently voted to spend $2.8 million to help the county make improvements to County Road 1 from near Tonganoxie south to Kansas Highway 32.
The total cost of the improvement project - which will include widening the road - is $14.54 million. The county will spend about $8 million in sales tax revenue and the Kansas Turnpike Authority is considering spending $2 million on the project. A federal highway bill may provide another $1 million, according to U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts' office.
The road improvements would be in conjunction with KTA's plans to build a new interchange at County Road 1.
The Shillings, who are Tonganoxie residents, said they don't think there is any evidence that the city will get its money back or anything of value for improving the county road.
"To me, it's like buying a car blindfolded," Phyllis Shilling said. "You don't have any idea what you are getting for your money. Our city has a lot of other things that need to be addressed."
The Shillings and others circulating the petitions had hoped this question would be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot: "Shall the city of Tonganoxie financially contribute toward the County Road 1 improvement project?"
The petition drive started Aug. 28 and the petition had to be turned in to the Tonganoxie City Clerk's office by 4:30 p.m. Friday, a deadline that was just barely met, Roger Shilling said.
Tonganoxie Mayor Dave Taylor said he doesn't blame the petitioners for trying to bring the issue to a public vote.
"They had a right to do what they did," he said. "I think a lot of times politicians lose sight of who they work for."
Taylor said he was in favor of providing the money only if the city gets it back in some form of tax relief. He said he doesn't think it was made very clear as to what the benefits for the city would be.
"I'm not in favor of just handing over $2.8 million," Taylor said. "I'm not ready to put the city in debt."