Some taxpayers in Greene County are wondering why commissioners aren't selling some unused assets. This comes after county officials announced they might have to make severe service cuts following last week's rejection of the Use Tax proposal by voters.
The controversy surrounds an expensive piece of real estate. Viewers contacted us about the high dollar property just south of Springfield that cost taxpayers $2.25 million three years ago.
The house at 1955 W. Farm Road 186 is more than 6,700 square feet and sits on 37 acres. The Greene County Highway Department purchased the house and property in 2010 from its former owner for the future extension of Kansas Expressway.
"As the years go by, as opportunity has arisen, we have acquired the right of way. You can look at the map, and you can see, the green portion shows the pieces that we actually have already acquired," said Greene County Highway Department Administrator Dan Smith.
Smith says the property was purchased with road and bridge funds. He says the owner wouldn't sell just a part of his land, so the county bought the whole property to avoid taking it by force.
"We really do everything we can to avoid condemnation, and so we started talking to him and negotiated a deal and bought the property," Smith said.
Greene County taxpayers like Don Carriker want to know why Greene County still owns the home and all the acreage three years later.
"I'm thinking, 'Well, they need money. Then here is a multimillion dollar property sitting vacant, with the utilities running all summer," Carriker said.
It's been sitting empty, with the county paying City Utilities bills ranging from about $200 to $400 a month.
"Why didn't they sell it?" Carriker wonders.
We asked why. The Highway Department is in talks with the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, which wants to eventually purchase the property for a park and trails. It would like to use the house and barn for its Community Olympic Development Program. The program provides Olympic-style training in archery, ice hockey, volleyball and tennis. One idea is an indoor archery range. But the park board currently has no funding for the land.
"At the moment, with us talking to the Park Board, and that looking like a win/win for the community, we're really not looking at another alternative," said Smith.
To Carriker, it looks like a source of much needed cash for the county.
"Do what we have to do. Tighten your belts. Find the waste," said Carriker.
"The last I checked, the Greene County Park Board is also part of Greene County. Simply put, the citizens of Greene County deserve better. Shame on our local government officials for trying to make the taxpayers of this great county feel sorry for them for not passing a new tax. This is just one example," said Greene County resident Drexel Swanson.
Since the property was bought with Road and Bridge funds, proceeds from its sale would have to go back in the Road and Bridge account, and couldn't be used for general county expenses.
The Springfield-Greene County Park Board says it has another piece of property in the same area, and would like to use both pieces of property as park and trail land adjoining Rivercut Municipal Golf Course.