With representatives of local cities assembled, the chairman of the Leavenworth County Port Authority led a discussion Wednesday about future funding for the Port Authority as well as the organization's mission and representation on the governing board.

With representatives of local cities assembled, the chairman of the Leavenworth County Port Authority led a discussion Wednesday about future funding for the Port Authority as well as the organization's mission and representation on the governing board.

Chairman Blaine Weeks led the discussion at the conclusion of a monthly Port Authority meeting. Representatives of the cities of Leavenworth, Basehor and Tonganoxie were in attendance. Representatives of the county government also were on hand.

The discussion comes after Leavenworth County commissioners discussed the possibility of cities providing funding to the Port Authority.

County commissioners tabled the issue last year to give the Port Authority board time to report back about a possible resolution.

Currently, the county is the only local government that provides funding each year to the Port Authority. The county already has allocated funding for 2018.

An agreement that established the Port Authority in 1969 called for joint funding from the county and city of Leavenworth, according County Administrator Mark Loughry.

As he began the discussion Wednesday, Weeks said he believes 2019 funding for the Port Authority is at stake.

He said the Port Authority needs to prepare a proposed resolution by May, ahead of budget time for the county government. He said this will allow additional discussions in March and April.

Leavenworth Mayor Mark Preisinger said he viewed the goal of the discussions as keeping the Port Authority funded.

Weeks asked if people are clear on the Port Authority's mission and the difference between the Port Authority and its partner organization, the Leavenworth County Development Corporation.

Leavenworth City Commission Mike Griswold said providing clarity on this issue would be a good goal.

Weeks said the Port Authority is an economic development organization that handles real estate and has the ability to borrow money. He said LCDC serves as the marketing arm.

“That's really the difference between the two,” he said.

Preisinger said the Leavenworth County government levies 0.5 mills for economic development. And money generated through this levy is used to fund the Port Authority.

A mill levy is used to determine property taxes.

Preisinger said the 0.5 mills is a countywide tax.

“All of the cities are contributing to that,” he said.

Bob Patzwald, who has been re-appointed to the Port Authority board, said he believes a countywide assessment is the best way to fund the Port Authority.

He said funding is one side of the coin. He said the other side of the coin is representation on the board.

Under the current agreement, Port Authority board members are appointed by the Leavenworth County Commission and Leavenworth City Commission.

Weeks said the current board members reside in Leavenworth, Lansing and unincorporated Leavenworth County.

Basehor City Administrator Lloyd Martley Jr. said representation of every city in the county is not needed. But he said Basehor city officials are concerned about having representation for their area.

“Representation is important to us,” he said.

Tonganoxie City Manager George Brajkovic said it is important for Tonganoxie to have representation.

Brajkovic said he supposes that the smaller cities in the county want to have a seat at the table.

Brajkovic said he sees countywide organizations as helping to raise all ships.

Leavenworth City Manager Paul Kramer said the agreement that established the Port Authority is old. He said if officials want to look at representation on the board, it is probably best to look at the entire agreement.

Weeks said he does not think votes by the Port Authority have ever been driven by geography.

Patzwald said it is important to understand that a lot of the work the Port Authority does with industrial parks is driven by where the parks are located.

“I think retail is important to discuss,” County Commissioner Doug Smith said.

Martley said the layout of Basehor is not conducive for a lot of industrial growth.

“Our focus is retail,” he said.

LCDC Executive Director Steve Jack said incentives can be offered to attract manufacturing and other industrial businesses. But he said retail locations are based on market conditions.

“It is harder to incent retail,” he said.

Patzwald said good paying jobs provided through industrial growth help drive the economic engine of the county.

Loughry said the 1969 agreement does not address the current intent of the Port Authority.

“You have to redo the agreement,” he said.

He said the Port Authority also needs to redefine its purpose.

“If you have an across the county tax, you need across the county representation,” he said.

He suggested officials should look at including the small cities of Easton and Linwood.

“They're out there too,” he said. “And they may not want to participate, but they need to be invited.”

Loughry also argued that it would be helpful for the Port Authority to be involved in efforts to put together a countywide plan for future development.

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