When they met Tuesday, Leavenworth County commissioners approved a resolution to place a question concerning the expansion of the commission on the ballot for the November election.

When they met Tuesday, Leavenworth County commissioners approved a resolution to place a question concerning the expansion of the commission on the ballot for the November election.

But before the vote, Commissioner Doug Smith questioned comments made to the newspaper by a member of a group supporting the expansion.

A group known as Give Me Five collected signatures to have the question added to the November ballot. The question will ask voters if they approve of expanding the County Commission from three commissioners to five.

County Clerk Janet Klasinski said the group had to collect at least 2,153 signatures of Leavenworth County registered voters in order to have the question placed on the ballot.

“The committee did obtain the correct number of signatures,” she said.

She said the resolution voted on Tuesday by commissioners authorizes her to put the question on the ballot.

Smith read a portion of an article from the Leavenworth Times concerning comments made by Janette Labbee-Holdeman, who is a member of Give Me Five.

Smith questioned a suggestion by Labbee-Holdeman that southern Leavenworth County is not well represented on the County Commission.

Smith represents the southern half of Leavenworth County which includes the cities of Basehor and Tonganoxie.

Labbee-Holdeman, who was in the audience for Tuesday’s meeting, said she did not recall Smith saying anything during meetings last year that focused on opposition to a Tyson Foods plant opening near Tonganoxie.

“Whose vote stopped it?” Smith said.

Smith was referring to a Sept. 18, 2017, vote to rescind a resolution that had expressed intent for the commission to issue industrial revenue bonds for the Tyson Foods plant. The day after this vote, an official with Tyson Foods announced the company was putting its plans for Leavenworth County on hold.

Smith initially had voted in favor of the resolution when it was approved Aug. 31, 2017. But he and former Commissioner Clyde Graeber later voted to rescind it.

Labbee-Holdeman said Smith had voted to rescind the resolution after pressure had been put on him.

Labbee-Holdeman said southern Leavenworth County needs more representation than just Smith. She considers Lansing to also be part of southern Leavenworth County.

Labbee-Holdeman said more members are needed on the commission. She said commissioners cannot currently speak to each other outside of a public meeting because it would violate an open meetings law.

Commission Chairman Louis Klemp said he is glad commissioners are unable to speak to each other outside of a public meeting. He said commissioners he has served with “never got together and said, ‘Well I need help with this vote.’”

Klemp said expanding the commission would allow at least two members to meet outside of a public meeting.

Commissioner Bob Holland said three commissioners had supported funding for an industrial park in Tonganoxie. He said all of the commissioners will support a project, regardless of whose district it is in, if they believe it will be good for the area.

“We represent districts,” Smith said later during the meeting, “but at the end of the day, we support the whole county.”

Another Give Me Five supporter, Rita Swann, said she was disheartened by the animosity exhibited during the meeting.

“You can’t take everything personally,” she said.

Swann said she believes Smith does a fine job. She said the ballot question will be a yes or no question.

“It’s not a referendum on you personally,” she said.

In response to Swann’s comments, Klemp said, “Life is not sweet and gentle.”

Commissioners unanimously approved the resolution to authorize Klasinski to place the question on the ballot.

Following the vote, Klemp expressed concern that some of the people who are running for County Commission this year are wanting to represent cities. He argued that members of city councils should be taking care of the cities in the county.

Smith suggested county buildings and grounds personnel come up with a cost estimate for creating two additional offices for county commissioners. Smith said the county is budgeting for only three commissioners for next year.

“I’m just saying we’ve got to have a plan if this passes,” he said.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said he would not recommend changing the budget for something that may not happen. He said the budget can be amended later if the expansion of the commission is approved.

Later during the meeting, Klemp noted that commissioners would be the ones to approve new district boundaries if the expansion of the commission is approved by voters.

Holland said the commissioners would have to work with the county clerk on creating the new districts.

Smith said the new districts would be temporary because the boundaries would be redrawn again after the 2020 census.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR