City pitches new sales tax with promised street upgrades
De Soto residents will decide the level of street improvements they want with their vote on the proposed 3/4-cent sales tax this month, City Administrator Gerald Cooper said.
"All our current budget allows us to do is maintenance," he said. "If we're going to do actual improvements, we need more dollars."
Mail-in ballots were to arrive in De Soto mailboxes Wednesday. They must be returned to the Johnson County Election Office in Olathe by noon Oct. 30 to be counted.
If it passes, revenue from the new sales tax would be dedicated to infrastructure improvements. It would expire in 10 years unless extended by voters.
City engineer Mike Brungardt is expanding on Cooper's message by developing a five-year capital improvement plan that lists what city residents will buy with the sales tax. Brungardt has not yet finished his priority list of projects included in the plan. Last week, he was able to make a list of 11 projects that he said would be strongly considered for funding should the sales tax be approved.
Eight of the projects on the list are street improvements. That is by design, Brungardt said. The city's new system development fees on new water and sewer connection are to pay for improvements to those two utilities.
A lone building project on the list is a $500,000 new fire station. Fire Chief Kevin Ritter said the department is pressed for space after the addition last year of a new fire truck, grass rig and other equipment last year.
Residents could enjoy an added public-safety benefit from the new building, Ritter said. Johnson County Med-Act has expressed an interest in placing a emergency medical team in De Soto with the completion of a new station, he said.
The capital improvement plan can be reviewed at City Hall, the De Soto Chamber of Commerce office in Memorial Hall and at the De Soto Library. It includes all projects submitted by city department heads.
Every project includes a cost estimate. However, Cooper said residents shouldn't be alarmed by the price tag of several street projects. The sales tax would allow the city to participate in the County Assisted Road System program and make use of the matching funds it would provide.
"The CARS program requires improvements with curb and guttering and other standards we haven't able to afford," he said. "The sales tax would allow us to leverage those funds."
The two highest priced items on Brungardt's list are improvements to De Soto's two main thoroughfares 83rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Cooper said both would be eligible for CARS funding.
The 83rd Street project would completely rebuild four blocks of the street from Shawnee to Ferry. The proposed project would completely replace the storm drains and curb and guttering. It would also widen 83rd enough to allow for parallel parking and do away with gravel parking areas adjacent to the street.
"It will greatly enhance the appearance of a highly visible area of the community," Brungardt said of the $433,000 project.
In addition to money from the new sales tax, funds from the city's excise tax and fuel tax collection can also be used for the project.
The Lexington Avenue project would improve the street from Kansas Highway 10 to Kill Creek. Brungardt said the section would be remilled with an asphalt overlay. The street would be made safer with the addition of two-foot asphalt shoulders on both sides. The road base of the existing shoulders would be rebuilt, he said.
Finally, the project would include the construction of a five-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of Lexington.
Funds from the city's excise tax, fuel tax collection and the County Assisted Road System program could be applied to the project's estimated $657,000 cost.
Other projects on Brungardt's short list include:
A Waverly Road improvement from 83rd Street to Explorers Trail Drive. The project would include widening, reconstruction of the street's road bed, new chip-and-seal paving, multiple drainage improvements and sight-line improvements at intersections. Funds from the city's excise tax and fuel tax revenue would help pay for the project's estimated $138,000 cost.
87th Street from Waverly to Corliss. The project includes the reconstruction of the street's roadbed, the addition of chip-and-seal pavement and drainage improvements. Excise tax and fuel taxes could also be used on the improvement.
Extension of Golden Lane from its current terminus in the Dee Meadows to Lexington Avenue. The two-block extension would be a 28-foot-wide collector street with curb and guttering and adjacent sidewalks. The project would include sidewalks and street lighting. The city's excise tax and fuel tax revenue would also be used on the project.
The $138,000 project would improve traffic flow in the subdivision, Brungardt said.
A plan to replace the current chip-and-seal pavement on old-town streets with new asphalt surfacing. Brungardt said the program would cost about $580,000 would be about five times greater than the chip-and-seal program, but the city would realize savings from maintenance costs.
In addition to the street projects, Brungardt listed improvements to downtown sidewalks. The city has already to decided to use its 2001 Community Development Block Grant on that need.
Cooper said the city recently received news that this year's block grant will total $148,000 instead of the $100,000 expected.