By SCOTT AUST
GARDEN CITY – Local and state officials on Monday, Oct. 11, cut the ribbon on the completed Jennie Barker Road widening project on the east side of Garden City, one of four projects included in a 2017 sales tax ballot issue that was approved by Finney County voters.
Under a giant American flag on the northwest corner of Jennie Barker Road and Schulman Avenue, members of the public, construction and design teams, Garden City and Finney County elected officials and staff, and representatives of local business and economic development organizations congregated to celebrate a project that has been discussed for decades.
“We’re here to celebrate an accomplishment that has been several years in the making. This is a partnership – it isn’t a city accomplishment, this is a community accomplishment,” City Manager Matt Allen said.
Dave Jones, Finney County Commission Chairman, noted the long history of partnerships between governmental entities and organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Finney County Economic Development and Finney County Convention & Visitors Bureau and more recently Downtown Vision. He praised the partners for bringing forward ideas and advocating for and seeing through this kind of initiative.
“We are recognizing and celebrating another community effort that has involved a large number of you in a partnership,” he said.
Improving Jennie Barker Road has been a topic of discussion between the city and county going as far back to when Jones started with the county in 1994.
“It finally happened, thanks to a whole lot of partnerships,” Jones said.
In 2017, Finney County voters approved a 0.3% sales tax initiative to finance four community projects:
- Improvements to Jennie Barker Road
- Lee Richardson Zoo flamingo exhibit upgrade and new Animal Health facility, which has been completed.
- Indoor gun range, which will break ground soon.
- Third fire station and EMS located at the corner of Jennie Barker Road and Schulman Avenue.
“There’s one more group of partners that we need to thank…and that’s our voters,” Jones said. “They don’t turn out in numbers, but they turn out in quality. We thank the voters.”
Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz also attended Monday’s event.
Lorenz praised the cooperative attitude of Garden City and Finney County in getting projects like Jennie Barker Road completed. She said KDOT is pleased to be a partner as well.
“Sometimes transportation can be part of unlocking lots of opportunities, and I think that’s what so many investments here in this community have done is open up those opportunities so you all can grow and prosper,” she said. “It’s your voters who have voted to invest in themselves and their community and as Kansans paying taxes, we need to make sure we get the best return for their dollars.”
Referring to the intersection of Jennie Barker Road, Mary Street and K-156 to the north, Lorenz said KDOT has been listening to community leaders about their concerns. She announced that a traffic study performed at the intersection recently indicates traffic counts meet warrants for possible signalization. Over the coming months, KDOT will be working with the city and county to determine what improvements are needed there, which could include a signal, Lorenz said.
“We’re going to look at all the options, but you’re going to get an improvement here and KDOT will pay for that improvement in terms of safety,” she said.
Allen said one of the city’s core values is performance and accountability. As a result, the city and county formed a sales tax oversight committee, a group of volunteers who look at how the city and county spend the money on these projects. Allen said the volunteers, who include Kathleen Whitley, Tim Miller, Martin Nusser, and Gerry Schultz, meet quarterly with the mayor and county commission chair, the city manager and county administrator, to review expenses and report to the governing bodies.
“There is probably an even better way, I think, for accountability and reporting back and that is cutting the ribbon on a project,” Allen said.