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Warden updates commission on efforts to expand Highway 54 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 March 2018 09:50


Seward County Commission Chairman Nathan McCaffrey, right, talks to local electrician Edwin Lopez about his appeal of a denial of applications made for a master electrical certificate and an electrical contractor license. Lopez does not hold a license to do electricity work in rural Seward County, but does in the city of Liberal and in other area communities. Commissioners said Lopez needs to work to get his journeyman certificate before getting the certificate and license he was applying for and appealing the decision of Wednesday. L&T photo/Robert Pierce

• Leader & Times

Seward County Administrator April Warden joined community leaders from Ford County and Finney County for testimony before the Kansas House’s transportation committee last week, and some of the information reported following that testimony was done so in error.
At Wednesday’s regular meeting, Seward County Commission Chairman Nathan McCaffrey reviewed what happened prior to last week’s testimonies in Topeka.
“A coalition of individuals from Ford, Seward and Finney County appeared before the transportation committee at the State of Kansas last Thursday to offer testimony in support of some highway projects,” he said. “They met here as a group in Liberal prior to that to kind of get on the same page. Basically, a consensus was reached to support a four-lane project from wherever it is now up to Mullinville as a regional desire. Each county from there on out expressed their position on what should happen closer to their own communities.”
McCaffrey said feedback from the testimony has been quite positive, including that of Kansas 125th House District Representative Shannon Francis. However, the county chair said a mix up happened from some news outlets regarding what actually happened.
“It has been reported by the Garden City Telegram and some other papers that the regional project was a completion of the four lane from Mullinville to Dodge City rather than from Wichita to Mullinville, which is not the way that it happened at all,” he said. “It wasn’t a consensus by any means to do that. That’s not the way it was presented.”
McCaffrey said this was certainly not the position of Liberal or Seward County, nor the position of area coalition members.
“It’s just been something that’s been misreported,” he said.
Warden then gave a rundown of what she believed may have happened.
“When you go to testify, you have to provide written testimony 24 hours in advance, and 25 copies have to be made,” she said. “Those were placed out on the table in the front of the committee room where you going to present or testify before the committee.”
Warden said no actual reporters were in the room at the transportation hearing, and what likely happened was that reporters had picked up copies of the various testimonies.
“In Dodge City’s individual testimony, their community wishes to as their community was to four lane from Mullinville to Dodge City,” she said. “The Topeka reporter did a general summary of the testimony.”
The Telegram and the Hutchinson News are owned by the same family, and Warden said the two outlets no longer have a reporter going to Topeka to tell what happens at the state capitol.
“They get courtesy stories from the Topeka paper to them,” she said. “What Topeka had reported, the Garden City Telegram reported in their newspaper.”
Warden said the coalition’s top priority is to get U.S. Highway 54 four-laned from Wichita to Mullinville, and with Kingman and Pratt having four lanes, part of that project is now done.
“Our next focus that’s in the testimony would be that they complete the projects that they have already promised us that have been delayed or discontinued,” she said. “We still have two projects on 54 that they were to complete or that they had promises to us to do.”
As for the actual testimony, Warden said much of Garden City’s was focused on economic development in Southwest Kansas. She said she focused hers on that same issue, but she centered much of her talk on the safety aspect, particularly accidents that occur on U.S.-54.
“I was able to get numbers from KDOT on the accidents and fatalities and deaths that have occurred because of that,” she said.
Warden said following the testimony, she herself was very excited.
“I left there and almost wanted to do cartwheels,” she said. “The information that we had back from the committee was so positive, and we have great representation from Southwest Kansas on the committee. The people on the committee that weren’t even from Southwest Kansas thanked us very much for our time. They listened to us for a complete hour of us testifying and asking questions uninterrupted.”
Warden said other members of the transportation committee praised the efforts of the coalition.
“There were other members of that committee that thanked us for being so very prepared,” she said. “They said they learned so much about Southwest Kansas that they did not know until they listened to our testimony.”
Warden said a representative from Hays who had talked about how many students come to Fort Hays State University said efforts are being made to help the hometowns of those students retain them. She said that person added the counties represented by the coalition need to be a part of that puzzle.
“He said I think it’s time the eastern side of the state looks at putting some money in Southwest Kansas,” she said.




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