A truck supporting a "no" vote on the road question
drives in the Sunflower Days parade June 26 in Melvern. Signs supporting
both sides of the issue have popped up all over the county, with
the vote in the primary election less than one month away.
Wayne White | Managing Editor
LYNDON—While Osage County commissioners have said they plan
to develop two budget proposals for next year – one for regular
county operations and another that includes the possible takeover
of township road maintenance – it appears voters might not
have solid figures to help decide how to vote in the county unit
road maintenance election Aug. 3.
Osage County currently operates under the county-township system,
in which the county maintains main traveled roads in the county
road system, and townships maintain local roads not in cities and
not maintained by the county. In February, commissioners approved
a resolution that would convert the county to the county unit system
after a valid petition was filed requesting adoption of the system.
The resolution was followed by another successful petition that
brought the issue to a vote. If voters approve the county unit system,
the county will be responsible for maintaining all roads in the
county except for city streets and state and federal highways.
Tuesday morning, commissioners met with Perry Thompson, Osage City,
a proponent of the county unit system, who questioned how a change
to county unit would affect rural taxpayers.
“For rural people, property tax, it’s going to decrease,
is that correct?” Thompson asked.
“That’s what we think,” said Osage County Commissioner
The three commissioners agreed they expected rural taxpayers to
have a decrease in property tax levies if the changeover was successfully
voted in, but they did not yet know how much the savings would be.
Thompson questioned the accuracy of a previously suggested county
mill levy increase of 8.5 mills if the county took over maintenance
of township roads. Thompson said he was seeking an accurate figure
to inform rural taxpayers of how much savings they might expect
if townships no longer levy a tax for road main-tenance and instead
the county tax is spread across all taxpayers in the county.
Currently, people who live in cities do not pay taxes into the township
road funds, although all city taxpayers, except those in Osage City,
pay taxes toward townships’ general funds, out of which expenses
not associated with road maintenance are paid.
Pruitt said commissioners did not know how much the county road
mill levy would increase.
“We can’t come up with a real figure because we can’t
get all the answers,” Pruitt said.
Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer agreed, noting that some aspects
of the conversion, such as the number of additional county employees
that would be needed, remain unknown.
“There are some totally unanswered questions,” Meyer
Commissioners pointed out that the county’s auditor is working
to estimate the cost of the possible road system conversion for
development of an alternate budget, but has not been successful
in obtaining equipment lists from all of the townships in the county.
“The auditor called them all and got chewed out by a few,”
Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall said.
Kuykendall said equipment lists have yet to be collected from seven
of the 16 townships in the county. Commissioners indicated the information
might not be known in time to develop the budgets before the election.
Questioned by Chuck Sypher, Vassar, about the legality of townships
withholding information, county counselor Delton Gilliland said
township records are subject to the state’s open records law.
See County | 8A
Continued from 1A
“Anyone has the right to request the records,” Gilliland
“The problem is,” Sypher said, “we don’t
have time to go to all of [the townships]” to request the
In reference to townships’ operating costs, commissioners
noted the townships’ budgets are developed at the same time
as the county’s and that information will be available to
everyone when the budgets are published.
Thompson also asked the commissioners to confirm other expected
cost savings from conversion to county unit, pointing to hiring
full-time employees to replace the townships’ mostly part-time
road maintenance employees.
“You’re always better off having full-time employees
with benefits instead of a bunch of part-time employees,”
Although commissioners did not confirm Thompson’s comment,
they agreed the county would need fewer full-time employees to maintain
township roads than the current number of part-time township employees.
Thompson suggested other savings would come in insurance paid by
the townships, saying the townships’ 16 liability insurance
policies would be combined into one policy for the county road and
“The (county’s) road and bridge insurance will probably
increase, but not a lot,” Gilliland said, adding that he would
contact the county’s insurance carrier for an estimate.
During discussion of insurance savings, Gilliland said that with
fewer employees, unemployment and worker compensation insurance
would also be less than that now paid by the townships.
Sypher suggested the main savings would be in equipment costs, saying
he had checked with other counties that operate one road grader
per 100 to 110 miles of roads. He said all of the townships in the
county maintain less than 85 miles of road, including a couple that
maintain about 40 miles.
“We’re road grader heavy,” Sypher said.
During the discussion, Thompson also questioned whether county rock
haulers and other vendors would be excluded from providing services
if the county took over maintenance of township roads.
“There is no way Osage County can haul all of the rock for
all of the townships,” said Meyer, confirming that local vendors
would still be utilized for road maintenance in the county if the
Kuykendall noted that all of the townships will have clerk positions
on the ballot of the upcoming election, but only nine candidates
had filed to fill the 16 positions.
“What worries me in the townships is the lack of interest,”
Kuykendall said, “except right now.”
In other business, the commission:
o heard from county road and bridge supervisor Glen Tyson that another
semi-trailer had become stuck on the railroad crossing west of Carbondale
last week. Commissioners noted that signs had been posted warning
of the hazard that was created when the railroad recently rebuilt
the crossing. The signs will have to suffice until the county can
rebuild the approach to the crossing during summer roadwork, Kuykendall
o learned from Tyson that Shawnee County commissioners had approved
of Osage County hauling asphalt from an asphalt plant in Shawnee
County via back roads to projects near Overbrook.
o heard from Kuykendall that Osage City’s Kiwanis Club had
inquired about the possibility of the county assisting in hauling
the club’s collection of newspapers and other paper products
to an insulation manufacturing facility near Wellsville. Kuykendall
said he advised club members to make a formal request to the commission.