City And County Enter Agreement On Countywide Sales Tax

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- After last Tuesdays three hour city council session marathon, the nine member city council made quick work of the "special session," and voted 6-3, entering into a local agreement with the county on language included in the countywide 1/2 cent sales tax ballot question this fall.

Mayor Larry Wolgast supported the decision and said, "We had a lot of input from the community and all that is important but there comes a time when you have to make a decision and vote and go forward and I think we did that tonight."

Council members Richard Harmon, Chad Manspeaker and Sylvia Ortiz were the only no votes to the extension of the current countywide half-cent sales tax scheduled to expire December 31st of 2016.

While Manspeaker was concerned no sidewalks were included within the $241 million dollar sales tax revenue plan, Councilman Harmon questioned the proposed $45 million dollars to fund the Kansas Expocentre. He called for a new arena to be built closer to downtown and claimed that the sales tax revenue is not the proper source to fund the aging structure. Expocentre officials disagreed. "If you just look at the visit from First Lady Michelle Obama a few months ago, that couldn't have happened unless we had a viable mass gathering facility. It's up to voters to decide what they want to do with the tax and if they want to maintain the Expocentre for future use," said General Manager of the Kansas Expocentre H.R. Cook.

Despite the city council's approval, county commissioners still had ultimate authority to proceed with the agreement, but County Commissioner Bob Archer and Mayor Larry Wolgast were glad to see a compromise. "It's a partnership with the city and county and anytime voters have a choice, it makes me happy," said Archer.

"I think of it as an important step for the community and to the economic development and infrastructure and other areas of interest to the community," said Wolgast.

The ballot question is scheduled to appear in the November 4th general election.