In the last few weeks, a long-awaited proposal was finally presented from Cass County to the cities of Raymore and Peculiar about how the poor conditions of School Road can be corrected. Since the first meeting in Peculiar, The Journal has been covering the story. Here is what has transpired:
· April 1: Presiding commissioner Jeff Cox meets with the Peculiar Board of Aldermen to present the county’s plan to improve School Road which had been designed by Commissioners Cox, Odom, and Scavuzzo. After discussing the details of the proposal, the Board supported the plan unanimously. There was some discussion as to whether or not Raymore would be on board with the plan. Bob Fines suggested that Raymore would not agree to spending their tax money outside of city limits, but Homer Dunsworth was confident that Raymore would contribute. Holly Stark also expressed faith in Raymore because they have consistently supported the efforts for improving School Road.
· April 15: Cox meets with the Raymore City Council during their biweekly work session. Work sessions are not designed for full critiques, but rather to gain information about topics and proposals. There were no shortage of questions from the councilmen as Sonja Abdelgawad asked the “million dollar” question as to why Raymore should be spending money outside of its city limits. Cox responded by saying that “If there was ever a time to do it, this is it.” He also once again reinforced the idea that this project will benefit all parties involved, including Raymore.
· April 22: Cox meets with the Raymore City Council again, but this time the meeting is a formal public hearing and the Council is set to vote on the City’s participation in the plan. Raymore-Peculiar High School Board members announced their opinions along with other members of the community— including three high school students. The majority of the people who came to the podium were in favor of the County’s plan; however, the majority of councilmen believed that a project outside of their city limits was unworthy of their tax dollars. Ryan Wescoat explained that it would be the wrong decision to give Raymore citizens’ tax dollars to another municipality and the majority agreed with him. As councilmen Kellogg and Stevens voted in favor of the proposal, the other six members declined involvement.
Now as the “hangover” of the City’s decision begins to subside, it is becoming more and more clear just how polarizing this topic is in and around Raymore and Peculiar. On our website, The Journal hosted its first unscientific public poll. Out of nearly 300 votes, 55% claimed that they were in favor of the Council’s decision and 45% were opposed.
Though the poll is not expected to be completely accurate, it does reveal that the community is fairly split over the right path to reach the common goal. The difficulty of this issue is that conservatives disagree with conservatives, liberals with liberals, and so forth. Jeff Cox’s proposed plan provided real solutions while making solid points. The Raymore City Council was equally as valid, establishing very sound reasoning for declining participation.
Unfortunately, in the midst of all of the shuffle, it is easy to forget that the road is still there, driven by hundreds of students on a daily basis and remaining in poor condition. Reasoning has evolved into finger-pointing and name-calling and many people think their plans are perfect and any kind of compromise is out of the question, while others have grown apathetic and write it off as a lost cause.
At the end of the day, this project will begin one way or another.
“At this point we’re not going to look at engaging in any kind of formal agreements,” Presiding Commissioner Cox said. “We’re basically going to look at all of the different alternatives on how we can make phase three work.”
Phase three of the plan is the part that requires the most money—$2.1 million—whereas the first two phases cost $1.7 million each. The proposal established by the county broke down the cost sharing so that Cass would pay 100% of phases one and two, Peculiar would pay 50% of phase three in addition to foregoing three years of its allocation of the one-third portion of the Quarter Cent Road and Bridge Sales Tax, and Raymore would not directly contribute to any phase but also forego its tax allocation.
The difficulty now presented is that although the County was slotted to pick up 100% of the tab for the first two phases, the monies foregone by Raymore and Peculiar would have greatly helped Cass pay the bill. The total amount of Raymore and Peculiar’s Quarter Cent Road and Bridge Sales Tax allocation is $701,837 over the next three years, over 20% of the cost for the first two phases of School Road reconstruction.
“The County is still fully committed to moving forward with phases one and two,” said Cox. The timing of the construction is not set yet and Cox stated that he will not promise dates unless he knows that the County can follow through. “We’re looking at all options,” he said.
Details are up in the air at this point and the County is committed to a fiscally conservative and responsible plan. Specifics are expected in the coming weeks, though there is no plan to try to collaborate with Raymore, as the majority of the current Council has made it clear that they are uncomfortable with spending tax dollars outside of their city limits.
The original plan that was proposed has been scrapped and the County is moving forward without any input from the city of Raymore. The two sides have respectfully disagreed and their equally valid fiscal decisions just could not collaborate. So now it is important to leave the past in the past and progress for the sake of the students. Regardless of who is involved in fixing a broken road, the main point is that those in the community should be kept safe. As elected officials move closer to hopefully completing this project, it is critical that “we the people” lay aside all malice and take positive steps toward the project’s maturity for the good of the community.