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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Blackwell delivers first ‘state of the city’

  • Lansing’s new mayor told an audience of business and civic leaders during the ninth annual “Salads and Solutions” lunch that the city has a lot on its plate.
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  • Lansing’s new mayor told an audience of business and civic leaders during the ninth annual “Salads and Solutions” lunch that the city has a lot on its plate.
    Friday’s update, a sort of “state of the city” for Lansing was the first for Billy Blackwell, who was sworn into office in January. He started by recognizing not what he or the city council was going to do, but rather what those in the audience had already done.
    “I want to thank you for being a part of the Lansing family,” he said. “We could not do the things in Lansing that we are able to do without you as a business, you as an organization partnering with us.”
    With that said, Blackwell told the business and civic leaders, peppered amongst city department managers and council members in the tables in the community center, not to hesitate if they need help.
    “If there’s something that we can do to keep you healthy and prosperous, thriving as a business as an organization, we want to partner right up there with you,” he said.
    Blackwell said on the city side, there are a number of ongoing projects that he hopes officials can make inroads on this year — including the proposed realignment of Kansas Highway 5 to Interstate 435. That particular proposal, Blackwell said, has been gaining steam among stakeholders in southern Leavenworth County and Wyandotte County.
    “All of those folks have a lot to gain from a K-5 realignment,” he said. “The ability to get people over to 435 quickly is going to be a plus.”
    Blackwell said more recently the city had met with state legislators and with Kansas Department of Transportation officials, but cautioned that it will likely be years before the idea comes to fruition.
    Other big projects included improvements to DeSoto Road, another expensive, long-term project that Blackwell said city officials continue to work on.  
    “We see the need to do something on DeSoto Road, we’re just trying to get our hands around where we’re going to get the money,” he said.
    The prospect of a new high school in the southwestern portion of the city also means that the city needs to be looking at potential improvements to water and road infrastructure there.
    “We’re working real hard, with Randy and his group, making sure that we’re identifying all the infrastructure needs that we need to support the new high school on DeSoto Road,” he said.
    Looking at the present, Blackwell said the city saw two large developments open in 2012 — both the Convington Woods apartment complex, which opened in December, and an expansion of the Twin Oaks assisted living facility, which opened about five weeks ago.
    Page 2 of 2 - But there are also challenges in the present — Blackwell said city officials recently met with legislators to express concern with a state tax plan that would cut income taxes further and could reduce the Legislature-approved one-cent sales tax for transportation funding.
    “We’re concerned about the burden of taxes being pushed down to the individual cities,” he said.
    Bringing the address back to the beginning, Blackwell said there were a number of areas where Lansing’s residents have a chance to have their say — as the city drafts a new comprehensive plan beginning this year, with new citizens advisory committees in each ward that would act as liaisons for the council and in planning and brainstorming new ways to bring visitors into the city, like the first-ever citywide garage sale scheduled for April this year.
    “If you got some thoughts on that, throw them our way,” he said.
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