To the editor:

I am very impressed with our new five-member Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). I am reading and hearing issues before the commission that I had not seen or heard previously.

At a BOCC work session on April 25, new Commissioner Jeff Culbertson initiated a discussion on the need for a new Missouri River bridge and highway from Lansing connecting to Missouri Highway 152 at I-435 northwest of Parkville, Missouri. I discussed this issue with Culbertson. A recent article in the Leavenworth Times reported that population growth and residential construction in the southern part of the county far outstripped growth in the east-central Lansing/Leavenworth area. We discussed the reasons for this growth difference. We agreed that access into south central and southern parts the county is better relative to access into the Leavenworth/Lansing area. There is very good access into the Basehor and Tonganoxie areas from Wyandotte County via  Highway 24/40, I-70 and Leavenworth, Parallel and Donahoo roads, and into southern and southwest Leavenworth County. In comparison, access to Leavenworth/Lansing is on Highway 7/73, on Highway 92 from I-29 north and around Platte City to north Leavenworth and on Highway 5 into southeast Leavenworth and Lansing.

In a BOCC work session on May 7, commissioners Vicky Kaaz and Mike Stieben initiated discussion on economic development in the county or the lack thereof. The Leavenworth County Development Corporation (LCDC) and the Leavenworth County Port Authority (LPA). LCDC and LCPA are quasi public-private organizations promoting and financing economic development in the county, but more realistically in the city of Leavenworth. LCDC has two industrial parks located in Leavenworth on west Eisenhower Road.  Over the years we have seen three different Walmart stores and a Home Depot store in Leavenworth.

BOCC members expressed dissatisfaction with LCDC and LCPA lack of productivity, i.e., job creation. Stieben stated he had heard concerns questioning if the county was receiving an adequate return on its investment with LCDC and LCPA. The 2019 Leavenworth County contribution to the LCDC and LCPA is $287,000. Stieben also stated he had heard that LCDC and LCPA had created, or assisted, the move into the county, of only 10 jobs in the last six years. The LCDC claims they were instrumental in creating 446 new jobs in the 2014-2018 period. A difference of this magnitude requires serious review and reconciliation.

Stieben also stated that Leavenworth County should look to establish an in-house economic development person/office as the county’s point of contact for economic development. Stieben further stated that the county’s contribution to the LCDC and LCPA could be reduced by $50,000 to cover a county economic development person/office.

Kudos to the BOCC for stepping into new territory. It’s a long time coming.