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Voters approve countywide sales tax


A look at some of the top stories from northwest Kansas in 2013.



In a May special election, Ellis County voters approved a 0.5-percent county sales tax. The tax, which went into effect in October, is for construction of a new EMS/rural fire building and expansion and renovation of the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center.

The project, which will cost $14.3 million once interest is added, was approved by 82 percent of the voters; 18 percent of registered voters went to the polls.

As well, separate from the sales tax but linked with the renovations, is the county's taking over of the former Commerce Bank building at 718 Main, where most of the county offices will be relocated.

Also to be renovated at some point is the county building at 601 Main. That building, as well as the new county administrative building at 718 Main, will be financed through the budgetary process.

"It was a big step we all took as commissioners, to get the sales tax passed," said Ellis County Commission Chairman Dean Haselhorst. "It all started with the sales tax. Without the sales tax, we wouldn't be where we are today."

Haselhorst reflected on what the commission has accomplished in 2013.

"At this point, looking back, I don't see any other group of commissioners that has taken on the projects we have taken on," Haselhorst said. "There's been a lot of projects over the years in the county, but we're talking full EMS/rural fire station, a full remodel of the courthouse ... just stepping up the jail, the security."

Haselhorst was upbeat about the county.

"It's a big time for Ellis County," he said. "This is really something; they're going to see that we are going to be the hub of the center of Kansas, right on I-70. We're willing to make changes, willing to look to the future.

"It's just going to be a good time for the citizens of Ellis County. I thank them dearly for passing the sales tax."

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In June, Ellis USD 388 residents voted down a $10 million bond issue, with 61 percent of registered voters voting against it.

A story in the June 5 issue of The Hays Daily News said district officials were planning to use the bond money to pay off $1.5 million in HVAC improvements, freeing up $172,000 in capital outlay for other projects.

Preliminary plans also called for a classroom addition to Ellis High School to move the junior high there, along with new weight and wrestling rooms, a secondary gym, football field and track.