There were several items on the agenda for the Raymore City Council meeting Monday, April 22, but there was only one elephant in the room. The School Road reconstruction plan was up for first reading before the councilmembers.
Before presiding commissioner Jeff Cox made his case once again before the city officials, three members of the Raymore-Peculiar Board of Education stood up to express their feelings on the discussion.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Kyle announced that the Board takes no official position on the matter, but he reminded the Council that there are over 1,200 students age sixteen and older who travel School Road each year. He said that the road serves all of the districts and the communities while thanking them for hearing the proposal from Commissioner Cox.
“It’s not just a road, it’s the road,” said newly-elected School Board President Kim York. She said that the plan which asks for 10% to be paid for by Raymore benefits 100% of Raymore. As a resident of the city, she appealed to the Council “to do what’s right” in making School Road safe.
Finally, School Board Vice-President Leo Anderson spoke to the councilmembers and said that as a parent he refuses to allow his son to drive on that road. He also listed all of the dates in 2011 and 2012 when accidents occurred on School Road.
After the personal appearances by those officially tied to the school, Jeff Cox made his presentation before the council which was roughly the same as the previous statements made during the work session last Monday, April 15.
As the councilmembers were given the opportunity to ask Commissioner Cox questions concerning the project, Councilman Richard Hall asked Cox why the proposal was not discussed with cities of Raymore and Peculiar before being presented to said cities. This seemed to be the main point of contention among the bulk of the Council.
Since this meeting was declared a public meeting by Mayor Kerckhoff, citizens of Raymore were allowed to voice their opinion at the podium during a specified time. In all, twelve people spoke, ranging from a senior citizen to three high school students.
The first public comments came from Dave Woste, who has been a resident in Raymore since 1972. Many years ago Woste had a serious car accident on School Road and has been passionate about getting it repaired ever since. “It’s not the time to be a bean-counter,” he said in reference to city dollars.
Mike Medsker, Tom Circo, Jeff Adams, Ron Johnson, Ryan Johnson, and Christopher Benjamin all spoke in favor of the proposal as well.
Medsker said that as the county’s Recorder of Deeds, he hears about School Road “all the time.” If it were an optional road, like a road to Walmart, he said, it would be an understandable proposal to turn from. “When it’s not an option, we have to fix it,” he said.
Circo, a licensed insurer, spoke to the number of accidents he has seen as an insurance agent. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars” have been passed through his insurance company because of School Road incidents he said.
Adams spoke to the fiscal advantage of taking the deal presented by the county. He said that the $546,000 the county is asking Raymore to pay is a great deal and that the city will reap millions in benefits for an investment of thousands. “Raymore could stroke a check right now to take care of this and not suffer financially,” he stated.
Ron Johnson, the Cass County Auditor, was not planning on speaking Monday night but said that emotion drove him to the podium. Johnson said the issue should be above politics and personal interests and that it should be “for the betterment of our community.”
The three high school students that spoke described travel on School Road as “terrifying” and “scary” while noting unprecedented hazards like bright lights used by oncoming motorists on early mornings due to the unorthodox structure of the road.
Not everyone was in favor of the proposal, however.
Betty Steely, a senior citizen and resident of Raymore, strongly expressed her opposition to the city using tax dollars outside of the city limits. She was firmly against the idea of the city using city money to pay for county roads. “It’s like New York asking Chicago to pay taxes for them,” she said.
Tim Stidham was also in opposition to the proposal. “As a tax-paying citizen of Raymore, I do not want to see my tax dollars going out of the community for this when the county has the money in the reserve fund,” he said. Stidham stated that the reserve fund is expected to have $750,000 in it by the end of the year.
As the councilmembers spoke their minds, it became obvious that the majority of them believed this proposal would result in an improper use of taxpayer dollars for the citizens of Raymore.
Councilman Ryan Wescoat said, “Do we give the money to Peculiar to fix their roads and then tell our citizens ‘Sorry’…because we gave their money to another municipality?” Councilmembers Abdelgawad, Hubach, Boehner, and Moorhead all expressed the same thoughts.
Councilman Kevin Kellogg made an emotional plea to approve the proposal before he and Councilman Stevens cast the only votes in favor of the plan, making the final vote 6-2.
After the meeting, Cox said that the city’s decision was unfortunate. “At this point we’ll sit down, roll up our sleeves, and the county will look at other options,” he stated.
In other news, Thirsty Ernie’s received a “no tax due” approval and their issue is now resolved so that they will not have to close business.