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County wants city's OK

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

As Ellis County moves forward with efforts to put a sales tax measure before voters in 2013, the support of Hays city commissioners in seeing the county receive the entirety of those funds will be discussed at Thursday night's Hays City Commission meeting.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

The 0.5-percent sales tax sought by Ellis County would be used to build a joint EMS/Rural Fire facility and renovate the Ellis County courthouse and jail, as well as the Commerce Bank building and the property at 601 Main for an estimated $14.5 million. The tax would sunset when payment for the facilities is completed.

Legislation requires the county to share sales tax proceeds with the cities within the county, and would give the county an estimated 42 percent of the total revenue. To reap 100 percent of the sales tax revenues, the county must have a bill passed through the Legislature.

"If we can get a dedicated tax, we can pay it off in less than half the time that it would have with the current law," County Administrator Greg Sund told city commissioners at last week's work session as he sought a letter of support to amend sales tax legislation.

Although he said it's important for the city and county to look for ways to cooperate, Commissioner Kent Steward showed some hesitancy about supporting the county's request.

"Basically, I want to be supportive of these two projects," Steward said. "I would feel easier if you ... redrafted your letter a little bit."

"What you said just now is that the reason for doing this extraordinary way of handling the sales tax receipts is because you would get (the building projects) paid off twice as fast.

"Well, that would always be true. So is it the policy of the county commission moving forward to, anytime you want to do a sales tax for a project, that you should bypass the basic state law and just always get all the proceeds?"

"I think that would always be an option," Sund replied. "I think we need to look at the individual merits of every project we look at, and these are fairly big.

"They are not projects that the county's going to do time and time again."

Other agenda items include:

* Restriping of 27th Street between Plum and Hall to a three-lane configuration.

* Consideration of the Bike Hays Master Plan and a resolution to apply for transportation enhancement program funds.

* Discussion of entering into an agreement with Darrell Dreher for the construction of sanitary sewer and street improvements to serve the lots along Wheatland Avenue.

* Consideration of authorizing an agreement with Kaw Valley Engineering for engineering services for the design of waterline upgrades and replacements.