Public Inspires County Commission To Add Zoo To 1/2 Cent Sales Tax

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- More than a dozen projects are in line to benefit from a possible 20 year extension of the County Wide Half Cent Sales Tax, but the Topeka Zoo was almost left on the outside looking in, until public comment made county commissioners realize it's true value.

When putting together the list of 16 projects, totaling $240 million dollars, that would benefit from a possible extension of the County Wide Half Cent Sales Tax,Shawnee County Commissioners were wary of a few categories.

County Commissioner, Bob Archer said, "This initial resolution focuses on maintaining roads, bridges, economic development and saving the Expocentre. We have avoided quality of life because we don't know where it would end."

Then came public outcry for the Topeka Zoo. Shawnee County Resident John Macarthur said, "I will support whatever you come up with but please give the zoo some thought."

"I've been coming since I was little and I think it brings in a lot of tax dollars," said Shawnee County Resident Penny Guy.

Commissioners voted unanimously that the zoo was something much different and deserving of $10 million dollars in allocated funding.

"The zoo is a city asset much the same way as the Expocentre is a county asset and I think if we talk candidly about it, then it will prove deserving of allocation. This is an asset that improves the city of Topeka," said County Commissioner Kevin Cook.

To add the zoo, commissioners were forced to cut a project along SE 37th street from Kansas Avenue to Adams.

Another issue was when the public would vote. In November during the general election or the spring to allow voters more time to understand what the sales tax includes?

Cook said, "More people will vote in general election than in the spring election so if we talk about a tax that covers all of us, having the maximum number of voices heard, this is it."

The projects and planned November 4th ballot date will now go to the Topeka City Council for input.

Shawnee County Commissioners have the final vote on what's included and when county residents will see the final ballot.