Commission chairman proposes committee to discuss LCDC issues

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times
Leavenworth County Development Corporation President Josh Hoppes and LCDC Past President Harland Russell participate Wednesday in a Leavenworth County Commission meeting. Also pictured is County Commissioner Jeff Culbertson.

Leavenworth County commissioners plan to form a committee to address issues related to the Leavenworth County Development Corporation.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith suggested the formation of the committee Wednesday as commissioners met with representatives of LCDC.

LCDC receives funding from the cities of Leavenworth, Lansing and Tonganoxie as well as the county government. The organization also receives money from the Leavenworth County Port Authority, which is provided funding from the county government. LCDC also receives support from private sector partners.

Basehor previously provided funding to LCDC, but the city recently withdrew from the organization.

Smith said Wednesday he wants LCDC to be successful. But he also wants county officials to feel they are getting a return on their investment.

Smith said he has seen officials from the county and local cities express concerns about the economic development organization over the years. He said there are complaints every year.

“You have to address those whether they’re valid or not,” he said.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said, “It seems like we’re just not getting the return for the investment were putting into this.”

Culbertson said his goal is to do something different.

“Because what we’re doing now, for the last 20 years, is not working,” he said.

Smith suggested the mission statement of LCDC should be changed.

“I think we can do more than what we’re doing right now,” he said.

Smith said he wants a conversation to take place between local officials and LCDC.

He suggested forming a committee with two county commissioners, two representatives of LCDC and representatives of local cities including Easton and Linwood.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said she recently learned the County Commission is a voting member of the LCDC board.

Kaaz said she believes commissioners have a lot to learn about the role of LCDC before making decisions about changes in funding.

Commissioner Mike Stieben suggested one commissioner should be designated to serve on the LCDC board on a regular basis. He said this commissioner can relay concerns to LCDC.

Smith said county commissioners have not been as engaged with LCDC as they should have.

Smith said he is not calling for defunding of LCDC.

He said commissioners need to communicate with the LCDC board.

“I really think this can be a win-win if we can get our heads together,” he said.

Harland Russell, a member of the LCDC Board of Directors, said LCDC is the county’s “economic development corporation.”

“We are on the same team,” he said.

He said LCDC is doing a lot of things that commissioners may not realize. He said LCDC helps with business retention and growing businesses.

Stieben said he would like to serve on the proposed committee. Smith said he also would like to serve on the committee.

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Recognized former Commissioner Clyde Graeber, who died Sunday.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith asked commissioners to send their prayers to Graeber’s family.

• Approved a bid from King Construction, Hesston, in the amount of $1.452 million for the replacement of a bridge in Sherman Township.

Commissioners also voted to hire the firm of Finney & Turnipseed, Topeka, to perform inspection services for the project for an amount not to exceed $98,500.

• Voted to pay the Olsson firm up to $120,000 for continuing to provide on-call engineering services in 2021.

• Approved an extension of a moratorium on the implementation of new building codes for unincorporated areas of the county. The extension of the moratorium through April 17 was approved to allow time for the establishment of a building codes appeals committee.

Four commissioners approved of the extension. Commissioner Jeff Culbertson abstained from the vote.